Joint Auto GP points leader Adrian Quaife-Hobbs said he doesn't feel any pressure going into the second round of the season at Valencia, before setting the pace in Thursday's pre-event test.
Quaife-Hobbs won the opening race of the season at Monza from pole position, before bagging a podium finish in race two. He feels that being the championship leader at this early stage of the season didn't bring any pressure with it.
“Frankly I don't feel any, and I don't think it's so important now,” said the Kent racer. “We still have six rounds to the end of the Series, it's too early for this lead to mean anything. I also know that not every weekend will be like Monza, because sometimes you aren't the quickest car on the track and you have to cope with that in the best possible way.
“You've got to make the most of what you have, and if that means getting a third place instead of win, you have to accept it. That's how you win championships, and that's why being the leader is only important at the very last race.”
He says that it will be important to repeat his feat from Monza and claim pole again at Valencia, due to the difficulty of overtaking at the Ricardo Tormo facility. That's despite the introduction this weekend of the overboost.
“Everybody knows how hard is to get an overtaking chance in Valencia, so my first aim will be clinching the pole position as I did in Monza, because that's the first step towards the win or at least a podium finish on this track,” he explained.
“Here we have the overboost and this could be a little help, but it's hard to tell how much difference it will make. Race 2 will be a different story because with the reversed grid you will need a good strategy to get a podium finish. Anyway, the race is 21 laps and we have a 18 laps-long pit window, so there's a lot of room for different choices. I'm sure we'll see some very different strategies from the teams.
“It's a very technical layout, basically the opposite of Monza. There you are on low downforce and you just care for braking and good traction out of the corners, here you are in maximum dowforce setup throwing the car in some very long sweepers.
“I would say that if you can be quick both in Monza and here, it means that then your package is really good and you can be quick everywhere. From a driver's standpoint the Valencia track is really challenging because the main straight is the only spot where you can rest a bit, and it's very short.
“On the rest of the track all the corners are connected, one brings you into another: this means that making a mistake can be very costly because it won't just ruin one of your corners. On the other hand, if you get into the rhythm it can be a very fun track.”
Super Nova driver Quaife-Hobbs led much of the test session, nearly two tenths ahead of Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin.
“I did my best time with used tyres and no overboost, which means that I didn't make the most of new rubber and extra power when I had them available,” said Sirotkin. “Anyway it's fine, it's not qualifying.”
Quaife-Hobbs' teammate Victor Guerin was third fastest, just half a tenth shy of Sirotkin. The Campos Racing duo of Facundo Regalia and Max Snegirev were fourth and fifth ahead of the team's home race.
Sten Pentus placed competitively on his first Auto GP outing having joined the Virtuosi UK team for this weekend, ending up sixth. That was a narrow 0.017 seconds ahead of teammate Pal Varhaug, the man who leads the championship together with Quaife-Hobbs.
“The car is fantastic to drive, you can play so much with it,” said Estonia's Pentus. “No matter how much oversteer you have, you can always recover and if you learn to do that to your advantage it's great fun on a track like this. I'm pretty happy with this session, especially considering that there is still a lot I have to learn, especially in understanding the tyres and the brakes. I just have to keep pushing.”
There was another debutant in eighth, Brazilian Yann Cunha who has replaced Adderly Fong at Ombra Racing.
“There is really a lot of power, and sometimes it's really hard to avoid wheelspin,” said Cunha. “The car also moves a lot, maybe also because the tyre sidewall is a bit higher compared to what I'm used to. Anyway I really liked it, I just need some time to get acquainted to it and I'll be ok.”
The driver displaced by Pentus, Matteo Beretta, has switched to Zele Racing and wound up 14th. That was two places ahead of Austrian gentleman driver Peter Milavec, making his debut in the team's second car and some nine seconds off the pace.