Having debuted for Jenzer Motorsport in the GP3 series back in 2011, Alex Fontana has switched camps for his second full season in the series and joined up with reigning Teams’ champions ART Grand Prix. He had raced a part campaign with Jenzer in 2012 before running full time last year.
The 2011 European F3 Open champion finished on the podium once last year, claiming a third place in the second race at Silverstone. He believes he has joined a team that can help him get to the front in the form of ART, who have never been beaten in the Teams’ championship since GP3 began.
“For the first time in my career I will have one of the best cars in the field,” said Fontana to Checkered Flag. “I’m really positive about next season. Not just because I know that my car is fast, but also because I believe that this team can really help me to improve as a driver.
“2013 was a season of up and downs. We [Jenzer Motorsport] showed that we were fast, with 4 qualifying of 8 in the first six, but not always we were able to take the results we deserved.
“Sometimes was a lack of experience from my side, sometimes a car failure and sometimes a crash caused by someone else. I learned that consistency is the key factor of this championship, that if you have an opportunity you have to take it straight away and to use at the 100% all the km you can do, because track time is quite poor.”
He had time to praise Andreas Jenzer and his team for giving him the chance to race in GP3 in the first place. He admits it was very up and down, but it all helped develop his race craft.
“Well, it was thanks to Andreas Jenzer that I joined a race of GP3 as ‘extra’ in 2012. The guys were kind and well prepared, and the only regret is that we weren’t able to catch all the results we deserved. It was an experience, half good half bad, but for sure it gave me something more to add at my memories as a driver and to the experience I will carry in this second full year.”
The learning curve for any driver coming through junior categories is always great, but Fontana knows how he is developing, and is frank about where he feels he is right now as a driver.
“I’m not one of those drivers that can drive two or three different championships in one season, therefore I need to use at 100% all the kilometres I’m able to drive. I believe I’m learning how to be fast quickly, how to be constant, how to be more ‘cold’ and focus on the target… and most important, to choose a target.
“I’ve learned to be more professional and to take it more as a job, and I’ve learned to recover somewhere else the gap I have with some of the drivers that have more experience. I’m more aggressive than before, too.
“I always think that in the world you will always find, at some point, someone who will be faster than you. Of consequence, that day you will need to beat him in a different way: preparation, professionalism and a methodical way of work can be the skills you have as extras that your rival will not have. Talent is a big portion of the cake, but not everything. I try to keep it always in mind.”
When talking about the GP3 season that lies ahead, Fontana hopes to work well with his new team-mates Dino Zamparelli and Marvin Kirchhofer, but also hopes to be the fastest of the three of them.
“I’ve known Dino since Karting, as well as his father Mike. They are great people, and this will be only a positive factor during the year. I believe both Marvin and Dino can teach me something, and I will use all the knowledge they can give. In this world you must never underestimate anybody, and for sure I will not do it with my team-mates. I believe that both are fast and they will show it. I will try to be faster.
“I believe that there isn’t any other goal than to be one of the top drivers. That doesn’t mean that I think it will be easy, not at all. Everybody is driving to win, and so am I. I expect a strong field of drivers this year, and I’m preparing myself to be sure that I will be consider as one of the strongest.”
Fontana’s race helmet is a tribute to the late Tom Pryce, the Welsh driver who sadly crashed fatally in March 1977. The Swiss driver spoke about his admiration for Pryce, and why he adorns the colours the Welsh driver did in his too short an F1 career.
“My father used to drive Go karts with the same helmet as Tom. At the age of 3 and half, when I started Karting, he put on me the same helmet and I grow up with it.
“I believe that Tom Pryce was one of the greatest talents motorsport (and Britain) ever had the chance to meet, but that he couldn’t prove it completely because he past away young and too soon to achieve all what he deserved. I changed a bit the design, but I think you can still see Tom in there.
“I’m really hoping that someday I will be good enough to score for him the results he didn’t had the time to get…. in the meantime, I’m just happy he can still drive a racing car through me.”
Another car Fontana is hoping to drive again is a Lotus F1 car, having first tested a two-year old model in 2013. He remains part of the Lotus young driver programme for 2014.
“I’m still part of it and I’m really thankful of the trust they gave me again this year. Thanks to them I will be driving one of the best cars in the field and I will improve my driving skills a lot. Last year they gave me the chance to try a F1 car for the first time in a private test. I will push all through this 2014 to try to earn that chance again.”
Fontana and the rest of the GP3 drivers are currently in Estoril for the first pre-season test of the season. The series begins in earnest May 10th-11th at the Circuit de Catalunya, and Fontana and his ART Grand Prix team will be aiming for five Teams’ championships in five attempts.