Taking part in just one day of post-season testing last year due to a broken wrist, MP Motorsport rookie Tijmen van der Helm is looking to make up for lost time in Spielberg this weekend.
Suffering damage to his wrist during Round 3 of the 2020 Formula Renault Eurocup season at the Nürburgring, Van der Helm still competed in the remaining seven rounds before making his Formula 3 debut in Barcelona at the post-season tests with HWA RACELAB.
His injury limited him to just one day of running, but the Dutchman says that the experience, while minimal, should still prove beneficial as he gets set to make the step-up.
“I was pretty much driving with one hand,” said Van der Helm. “I did try and drive the week after doing it but couldn’t, so I had some work done on my hands, some lasering, and that meant that I could drive, thankfully. However, because of that, we were only able to do one day of the F3 tests.
“The plan was actually to do another year of Formula Renault, but plans change… Last year, things didn’t go so well, we had some issues with the turbo, and of course my hand, so we chose to have a new beginning and to move up.
“It’s been around two months since I last drove a car, but I’ve been doing a lot of simulator work and a lot of training. We are just trying to make the best out of everything and ensure that we are prepared for the season.
“Joining MP, I know them well. I have worked with them since F4. I drove with them in Formula Renault, and we have a good relationship. I hope that we can move up the field together.”
Debuting in F3 alongside former Formula Renault rivals Victor Martins and Caio Collet, Van der Helm is the youngest of the trio and joins MP on the back of his rookie season in Formula Renault, whereas his new teammates both completed at least two seasons in that category.
The 17-year-old is well aware of the jump up in quality, but he has already been assessing the key areas of his drive that need improving upon.
“I think that biggest step will be the braking,” said Van der Helm. “There is also no DRS in Formula Renault, which makes it harder to overtake but easier to defend.
“There isn't much of a slipstream, and when you drive behind someone there is understeer because of the downforce. Now with DRS, there will be more fighting, and it will be more fun. I am looking forward to that.
“You also don't get very much practice and the laptimes are always really close, so you need to be immediately on it in Formula 3. My (teammates) are both pretty good drivers with more experience than me, so I think I can learn from them both. I will try to keep up! I am hoping to build up to the top 10 by the end of the year.”