Arthur Pic has enjoyed a strong start to his maiden GP2 Series campaign thanks to points finishes in three of the first four races. Those results currently see the Frenchman occupy fifth in the standings and hold the coveted accolade of highest-placed rookie.
Pic is now hoping to maintain that momentum as he looks ahead to round three, held on the iconic streets of Monte Carlo this weekend (May 22-24). Despite this being his first GP2 appearance there, the Campos Racing driver feels confident that prior experience of the Principality will stand him in good stead.
Arthur, how would you rate your debut season in GP2 so far?
So far, so good; I’m quite happy to be honest. We’ve managed to score valuable points in three races, which have put us fifth in the standings – ahead of every other GP2 rookie – including McLaren and Ferrari protégés. Admittedly, we haven’t secured a podium finish yet, and we still lack a bit of performance in qualifying, but overall our start has been promising. Of course, we’re looking to improve throughout the year.
How have you coped with the transition between FR3.5 and GP2?
Both cars are pretty similar in terms of lap time; the main difference lies in tyre management and degradation. I’m able to manage this throughout races, although I struggled slightly to unlock the one-lap pace needed to shine during qualifying in Bahrain and Spain. We are working hard to improve in this area, whilst remaining competitive in race trim because of GP2’s reversed grid system. That makes it crucial to finish inside the top eight during the weekend’s feature race. Whereas in FR3.5, you start again on Sundays.
How do both series compare driver-wise?
Both fields are hugely competitive, but in GP2 you are racing against guys with several years of experience in the championship. They know the car and circuits like the back of their hand. That’s why it’s so hard for a rookie to compete with them. Saying that, I have nothing to be ashamed of performance-wise this year.
How have you adapted so quickly on race days?
There’s a combination of factors that enable us to compete at the front. Firstly, Campos Racing and I have focused our efforts on optimising the set-up for races. Furthermore, I frequently travel to the factory in Valencia to prepare for the next race weekend on our simulator. Feature races tend to give you some flexibility in terms of strategy, which we’ve managed to exploit this season. Also, I’d like to extend my thanks to all the mechanics who have done an amazing job during my pit-stops. And last but not least, you must be careful of not taking too many risks during the feature races, as they can have a major influence on your weekend’s overall result.
How important was it to link up with your engineer, Philippe Gautheron, who partnered you last season in FR3.5?
Philippe knows me well and understands my driving style. It’s good to have that continuity but it’s also a great asset because track time is limited in GP2. I mentioned earlier that there are many elements to explain why I’m performing so well. Working alongside Philippe is definitely one of them.
Now on to Monaco, a place that you’re pretty familiar with…
Yeah, I am. I’ve had the pleasure of watching Formula 1 there since I was five. Following FR3.5, this will also be my fourth consecutive appearance there, so I’ve gradually become accustomed to the circuit. Still, Monaco remains a unique challenge, although you need to re-acclimatise to the layout year after year. Grip levels evolve so quickly, which means you can shave around three to four seconds off your lap time over a weekend. This is the only street circuit we visit, which also feels like my home event due to the number of French people who attend. It’s always nice to be in a French-speaking paddock on a race weekend.
You’ve admitted to struggling in qualifying this year. That could be a deal breaker around the streets of Monte Carlo!
It certainly is and I hope we’ve made a step forward in this area because breaking into the top eight in qualifying has been our priority since leaving Barcelona. Monaco is rather paradoxical because, unlike at other tracks, you can’t over-think the situation. With barely 15 minutes on the clock, you don’t have the luxury of choosing when to go out. Instead, you put on a set of tyres and go for it! You can even do several consecutive flying laps, as tyre degradation is less troublesome in Monaco.
So what’s the key to performing well in Monaco?
Making sure you maximise track time during free practice and preparing to take some chances in qualifying are both vital, as well as keeping your cool during the races. Monaco is much more mentally demanding and strenuous than it is physically, although it’s important to capitalise on any good fortune that comes your way. You always need some luck to perform well in Monte Carlo.
GP2 Series Schedule: Monaco*
Thursday May 22:
12:00 – 12:45: Practice Session
16:15 – 16:31: Qualifying Session (Group A)
16:39 – 16:55: Qualifying Session (Group B)
Friday May 23:
11:15 – 12:20: Race One
Saturday May 24:
16:10 – 17:00: Race Two