Twenty-One-year-old Daniel Abt is competing in his second season in the GP2 Series, but much like his first he has struggled to get the results his pace seems to warrant. The former GP3 Series runner-up has only scored points on three occasions in 2014, and two of them were in the last race at the Hungaroring in Hungary.
After a year at ART Grand Prix in 2013, Abt switched to Hilmer Motorsport for 2014, and initially this seemed to be a positive move. He qualified well in Bahrain, qualifying third, but mistakes cost him the opportunity to score points. It took until the Feature race at Silverstone for him to finally score his first point of the year.
“It’s definitely been another very difficult season for me so far,” said Abt to The Checkered Flag. “I had a lot of expectations after the testing went so well and I couldn’t reach them so far. It’s been a mix of mistakes, bad luck and missing pace, which of course doesn’t satisfy me.
“It’s been a mix of emotions but mainly disappointing. I started well in Bahrain with my best ever qualifying result (P3) but then I ruined the race by myself. Afterwards I had two weekends where other drivers crashed into me in the main races, which obviously ends your weekend pretty soon.
“In Silverstone we then got a new compound from Pirelli and since then we are not getting back to the pace we had at the start of the season.
“We just didn’t turn our strong pace into results. It wasn’t just our own fault but in the end that doesn’t matter. It was hard for everyone in the team but we tried to keep focused on our work and just keep the faith.”
Despite not showing great pace throughout the weekend in Hungary last time out, Abt managed to stay out of trouble and used a good strategy to take fifth place in the Feature race, a result he went on to match in the Sprint race. He remains realistic that fifth is not the actual pace of the car, but knows the Hilmer Motorsport team are working hard to find the pace that appears to be missing.
“Hungary was definitely not our strongest weekend looking at the pace we had,” insisted Abt. “I think we made more out of it than we had in it just by choosing the right strategy and staying out of trouble the entire weekend. It was very important to finally get some solid points but as a team we have to stay realistic and we need to find out why we miss so much pace at the moment. It has to be our goal to get back to our best and make the most out of the remaining races.”
Looking at his struggles, Abt believes that when the team get on top of the issues that are affecting not only him but also his team-mate, he will be back at the sharp end. The young German still feels positive about his own abilities, and remains confident that results will come again, having last won a race back in 2012 while in the GP3 Series.
“Since I started racing I always experienced ups and downs but I was always a frontrunner and able to win races in every category I competed in,” said Abt. “Since I entered GP2 I’ve not experienced success and then it’s easy to lose confidence in yourself. But GP2 simply is a very strong series and if you don’t put everything together you are at the back.
“I’ve had some chances to show my true speed but in the end results count and I’m far away from what I expect from myself. I will keep doing the best I can and I’m sure other days will come – I know I haven’t lost my talent.”
When asked about what he might be able to do in the remaining races at Spa-Francorchamps, Monza, Sochi and Abu Dhabi, the German admitted it depends on what the team can do to solve the car issues. He remains confident in his team that they can turn it all around.
“It depends a lot on how we will be solving the car issues we have,” said Abt. “The last few races we weren’t competitive but I’m sure we can turn things around and at least show some good performances. I’ve won at Spa in GP3 so I pretty much like this track and will push hard to get a good result.”
Despite the issues, Abt feels comfortable racing for Hilmer Motorsport, especially as he sees them working hard and determined to improve. He has generally been the quicker of drivers in the team, and has seen Argentine Facu Regalia leave the team after Austria to be replaced by Briton Jon Lancaster.
“It’s been very good since I started racing with them,” insisted Abt. “Of course it’s not perfect when you go through a difficult time like we do, but everyone is giving their best and is staying focused. This year I have always out-qualified my team-mates so I’m now in the position of leading the team. I need to show some results if I want to continue my way into F1. The year is not over and I hope I can finish it on a high.
“Facu was very inexperienced and struggling a bit while Jon is more experienced and calm concerning the way he works. In the end I just want my team-mates to give good feedback to help the team, the rest I don’t care about too much.”
Abt is also lined-up to compete in the inaugural season of the FIA Formula E Championship towards the end of the year for his father’s Audi Sport Abt team, something the young German driver is looking forward to.
“I’m still a very young driver and when the opportunity came to do Formula E – especially in my dad’s team – I wanted to grab it,” insisted Abt. “It’s good for me to learn new things and technologies and I’m very much looking forward to the first race.
“It’s a lot different; it’s still slower than GP2 and also heavier. The main thing you need to learn is to drive energy efficient. With GP2 you don’t care about fuel while driving all you need to look after is the tire. In Formula E you need to try to drive as fast as possible with using few energy. It’s a big challenge but good for me to learn.”