In his three years of car racing to date, Zak O’Sullivan has never finished lower than second in a Championship, but the Carlin rookie says he’s anticipating a different type of challenge in Formula 3, with the British racer not expecting to fight at the front straightaway.
After finishing second in the Ginetta Junior Championship, O’Sullivan has spent the past two seasons with Carlin, first in British F4, where he finished second, and then in GB3, which he won.
On both occasions, the historic British outfit were the reigning Drivers’ Champions when he joined, but O’Sullivan has now stepped up to F3 with a Carlin side who finished last in the 2021 Teams’ Championship.
Despite the squad’s struggles in 2021, O’Sullivan says he’s confident that they can fight their way towards the front later in the season after an initial “learning period.”
“There is a bit of a different expectation and a bit of a different challenge with the team this year, but I am relishing that,” said O’Sullivan on his rookie season in F3 with Carlin. “There is a lot less pressure on me than some of the other drivers that are stepping up at higher teams.
“I am sure that we can make progress and I am confident that by at least the mid-stage of the year, we can start to be slightly higher up. I think it is going to be more key how we finish the year than how we start the year, in terms of positions.
“We will wait and see. It is a bit of a different challenge to previous years that I have been racing with them.”
Extending his partnership with Carlin into its third season, O’Sullivan has retained the same engineer that he used in both British F4 and GB3, a move that is part of a wider restructure at Carlin.
“I think that it is very beneficial to remain with Carlin,” he continued. “I am happy to be with the boys and girls in blue for another year. I am always a supporter of having similar faces around me.
“For me, it is good to keep the people I worked with in British F4 and GB3 around me. I’ve got a good relationship with them and am getting to know some of the new guys in the FIA F3 team. I’ve got a good relationship with Trevor (Carlin) now and am keen to extend that in the future.”
Part of an all-rookie line-up at Carlin for 2022, O’Sullivan is arguably the most experienced of the trio, which also includes Enzo Trulli and Brad Benavides.
Placing 26th, O’Sullivan was the highest finisher of the three drivers in a development-led Free Practice. One and a half seconds off the quickest laptime, O’Sullivan is confident the three of them can work together to move up the order.
“We are trying to work together as a team,” he explained. “We've been giving similar feedback in terms of what direction we want to go in with the car. That’s pretty crucial and so far, we've all tended to agree. We are all doing our part to lead the team forward together, rather than just one driver trying to lead the team in one direction.
“For now, I think it will be about learning as much as we can. Both me as a driver and the team as well. We can use the knowledge we gain from this first round for the rest of the season.”