2014 will be Monegasque driver Stephane Richelmi’s third season in the GP2 series, and his second with the DAMS team. Last year was his best year to date, with a best finish of second place in the feature race of the Silverstone event. He admitted 2013 saw him experience a difficult start, but it improved for him after the end of his home grand prix in Monaco.
“It was quite difficult for the first races because we were expecting a better pace and didn’t plan some mistakes that could be avoid,” said Richelmi to Checkered Flag. “Anyway it is like this in motorsport. After the Monaco GP break, we knew we had to calm down to start again stronger. We proved already being fast, we just have to put everything together and not miss any details. We have to keep this philosophy for 2014. Then I’m quite happy of my general qualification, finishing 5th overall.
“For 2014, it was more a question to start again in GP2 than a question of which team [I was] going in. When I was sure I would have stayed in GP2, DAMS was the only choice. For me, as long the team is not making big mistakes and that the atmosphere is good, there are no reasons to change. We were competitive on almost each GP even if we didn’t have the best car in each session. It is enough to play the championship; the perfect car doesn’t exist!
”The team didn’t stop their work during the winter, they still have this motivation and this will to make everything better. That’s the biggest quality of DAMS; they never stop working.”
After racing alongside Marcus Ericsson in 2013, Richelmi now finds himself partnered with another championship favourite in 2014 in the form of British driver Jolyon Palmer. When asked about his new team-mate, Richelmi revealed Ericsson had told him Palmer was fast.
“Marcus told me that Jolyon is fast and that he’s nice and not stupid at all. He did a really good job, being always on the top and being spot on with the new tyres. He did a better job than what I’ve done. But it’s better this way, as we can work together, we will improve even more.”
He was also happy to see his former team-mate Ericsson advance into F1, and feels that if the Swede impresses there, then the Monegasque driver will feel he is not far away from being good enough to be there himself, having proved himself well against him last year.
“First I’m really happy for him, he deserves this place even if he doesn’t have maybe the CV as other F1 drivers. Of course it will be tough because a rookie nowadays in F1 has to manage a huge quantity of parameters. He also has to learn a lot of tracks. But he has the speed to do it and with the new regulations, everyone has to learn how to use everything at its best. I hope he will do well, it will prove to me that I’m not far from the top.”
When asked about his development as a driver since he became a GP2 driver, when he made his series debut at Monza for Trident Racing at the season ending event in 2011, Richelmi felt it was difficult to analyse.
“Really tricky to answer this question [about development], as it’s something we can’t count, it’s only perception and feelings. For sure, more you take mileage, more you are able to understand quicker what’s going on and you adapt faster.
“As a consequence, I should be stronger this year than the previous but you need to work to understand your weakness in order to solve them… For example, I think I drove better last year in Jerez than this year. But what it’s sure, is that I have learned a lot being with DAMS compared to the other seasons.”
Finally Richelmi touched on his hopes and ambitions for 2014. In the two previous seasons, he has finished eighteenth and eighth respectively, and is aiming even higher this year, though the exact nature of his aims are relatively vague, though a breakthrough win would probably be high on the list. He last won a race in the Italian Formula Three Championship in 2010.
“I don’t like to set any goal as it depends of too many things. My only target, it’s to give everything each time, in and out of the car. Considering that, as I’ve taken more experience and maturity, my ‘everything’ moved forward! If we speak classification, I don’t see any reason why not being in the Top 5 of each GP’s points scored by driver [isn’t possible].”