Grégoire Saucy says he has made a much better start to the year after topping both sessions on opening day of pre-season testing. Though the Swiss driver also went fastest on Day 1 in 2022 in Barcelona, he believes that the first day of 2023 was much stronger than his efforts 12 months ago.
The ART Grand Prix driver didn’t waste much time getting to grips with the F3 car following the five-month break after Jerez post-season testing. Having more experience to aid his and his team’s progress, the opening day run plan went off without a hitch, and he ended both the morning and afternoon segments as the fastest man on track.
Saucy says following a trouble-free day, the team already has a good understanding of where they will be focusing efforts over the course of the next two days.
“It's good to start like this in 2023, but it’s only the first day. We know we have to improve, where we will be working on the car, working as a team and working on myself also.
“It’s so good to be back in the F3 car, it’s so good, the grip is huge. Here we have a small amount of degradation on the tyres like at the Red Bull Ring. You can push the tyres quite a lot with how much grip there is. It's so nice to come back in this car, so good!”
Returning for his second FIA F3 campaign with ART Grand Prix, Saucy says that having a full season under his belt has been hugely beneficial at this early point of the year. Identifying problem areas and maximising track time is crucial for all the drivers and teams during testing, something he says ART has had no issue with so far.
Teammates Kaylen Frederick and rookie Nikola Tsolov achieved a combined 80 laps between them to go along with Saucy’s 37. Long run pace was the priority each of the ART drivers on Day 1 and, despite ending both sessions as fastest, he believes there is some more time to find. That, however, will come with more laps across the following days.
“I tried to start quite fast this morning, to be directly up there. So for me, on my side at least, today was good. I think it's always good to come back and directly be up there. After that, we can continue to improve. Starting slowly and going, going and going, it's a bit more difficult to come back.
“We can say it’s been quite a good day. We know what we can improve for tomorrow for the race sim, but I think the peak performance is there. We can always improve it, but it's good to start like this.”
One major plus point of the three-day test in Sakhir is the tyre compound available to the teams throughout. The hard compound Pirelli rubber is the same tyre that will be used across the race weekend, meaning that data gathered across the test will have a strong correlation with what the drivers should experience during Round 1 of the season.
With the format of the F3 races meaning pit stop strategy isn’t a factor, extracting the best of the tyre at the most opportune time during a race is where the drivers can make all the difference.
Moving into Day 2, Saucy says that learning how the tyres behave throughout the stints and at different times of day will be the biggest focus. The ART driver is looking to learn as much as possible in terms of managing the tyre life and utilising the grip available to him, along with learning which tweaks to make to manage them efficiently.
“I think last year, there was only tyre life for one or two push laps. With the hard tyres, we know there is some deg in the race sim, so we have some tools to help that. It’s always good to learn about it early on.
“In terms of new tyre runs, we’re all good. Though, like I said, there’s one or two things with the tyres on the race sims that we can tweak, so we will see.”