Reigning Formula Renault BARC champion Dino Zamparelli made his debut in the FIA Formula Two Championship at Silverstone last weekend, after working hard throughout the winter to make it on to the grid. He gave his thoughts to theCheckeredFlag.co.uk after showing encouraging pace on his first weekend in the series.
Raising the budget needed to make the step up on the ladder took the entire off-season, with Dino's place in the field for the season opener only being confirmed days before the event. That after he had secured a new sponsor who, like Dino, is based out of Bristol.
“Yes, it finally came together,” he said. “It was a rather gruelling and long winter but all of my hard work and long hours paid off for the first Formula 2 round. I made a lot happen by calling people and emailing people. I chased a lot of people up and finally got somewhere.
“In the final week before the first Formula 2 race, I got confirmation that I would be on the grid at Silverstone and that I would be racing! I had a new sponsor called Vibe Energy Gum, and I was ready to go!”
Going up against drivers who had their participation announced as far back as January, Dino admitted that he felt a little unprepared going into the Silverstone weekend.
“I certainly wasn't as prepared as I would have liked,” he said. “My fitness wasn't optimal – when you work hard and long to raise the sponsorship, the last thing you want to do is train. But I made sure I kept ticking over with my fitness and I was in decent shape. Mentally; all I could think about was who to call up next and ask for sponsorship! So I wasn't in the best of mental conditions. But that didn't bother me too much. I don't care for excuses.
“In terms of being prepared in the car; I wasn't really at all. I only did the one practice day in the F2 car in the first week of April. This meant that since November last year, I had only driven a racing car once before the race. Needless to say that isn't perfect preparation. But that's what I'm up against! I set about learning as much as possible early on and to do my best with what I had.”
Dino claimed sixth on the grid for his first F2 race, having fallen just two tenths short of the front row in qualifying on Saturday morning. Things were looking promising for a strong result first-time out.
“I made a good start from sixth and moved up to fifth place in race one,” he said. “From there, I was not only able to hold my position, but also able to mount an attack on the cars ahead. The race was 40 minutes long and for most of the race, I can just remember pushing like crazy!
“With two laps to go, I was in a good position to move up. I was within a second of the car ahead and ready to make my move. We have eight boost shots in the Formula 2 car – one boost gives you an extra 75BHP and allows you close up to the car ahead. By the penultimate lap, I had four boosts left and was ready to boost my way to the podium…untilâ€¦my gearbox broke. Damn!
“I was on the last lap and I couldn't shift down the gears for the remainder of the lap. This meant that I went from fifth to ninth in an instance. I crossed the line in rather gutting ninth place.”
Sunday morning qualifying saw him one place further back in seventh, but still not far away from the front row of the grid. Again he made up a place at the start, before bringing it home in sixth place after a quiet race.
“For race two, I dusted myself off and went from seventh place to sixth place. Unfortunately my race wasn't as clean as the first race, and I made a few errors in the opening laps. This meant that I wasn't able to close in on the leading group, but I was some way ahead of 7th place man. So I was very much on my own. I set about learning as much as possible and getting comfortable with the car.”
Asked whether he was where he wanted to be in terms of pace, Dino explained that considering his lack of time in the car he had to be pleased with the season's first race weekend.
“Well having only had the one test day prior to the weekend, I don't think I'm too far off,” he said. “I was only two tenths of a second away from being on the front row in both qualifying sessions. In the races, at certain points in the races I was the quickest guy on circuit. So overall I'd have to say that I'm pretty happy with the pace in what was only my second and third time out this year.
“I was getting quicker and quicker as the weekend went on and I was understanding a lot more. I'm certain that the next time I get in the car, I will be instantly more confident with it and consequentlyâ€¦faster!”
With F2 being a more powerful package than F3 or GP3, Dino has made a big jump up from Formula Renault. He explained that there were a number of differences that he has had to adapt to, and not just the huge increase in power.
“Well the F2 car has a maximum output of 500BHPâ€¦the Formula Renault has a maximum output of 192 BHP. That's a huge difference!
“Lots of things are different. I had to get used to the tyres, the carbon brakes, the heavy steering, more grip, more power and more performance. Almost everything is like 10 steps up from the BARC car that I'm used to!
“I also had to learn things like controlling the tyres for the entire 40 minute race and understanding how the car handles under heavy fuel loads. For qualifying, the tyres had four maybe five laps of performance before you used up all the grip and it became pointless being out there. In the Renault BARC, you have about 20 laps before the tyres drop off! So there was lots and lots of different things that I had to get used to pretty quickly.”
With his maiden weekend now behind him, Dino's attention moves onto round two in Portimao in Portugal in less than two weeks.
“Well, I'd be lying if I didn't say I wanted to win,” he said about his hopes there. “I always want to win and I don't think it's too far away at all. With two weeks off, there is time to reflect and think about the areas that I need to improve. Ultimately I got unlucky in race one, but fifth and sixth were the two places that I should have had; and that really isn't far off at all.”
Finally, we asked him if he had an aim for where he'd like to be, come the end of the season.
“Yeah; to be the champion.”