Monster Energy V8 Supercars driver Cam Waters has joined Motorsport.com as an exclusive columnist for the 2016 season. First up he talks Clipsal 500, Albert Park, and Lewis Hamilton’s after party.
Firstly, welcome to my weekly column. It’s great to team up with the crew at Motorsport.com, and I’m really looking forward to taking readers on a behind-the-scenes journey during my first full-time season in the top tier of V8 Supercars.
Let’s kick things off with the Clipsal 500 weekend – and what a weekend it was. It all started on the Wednesday, when we announced that I had Monster Energy backing for the #6 Ford. That was very cool. And from there, it was one wild ride right up until we finished fourth in Sunday’s crazy wet weather affair.
Plenty to learn
There was some eye-opening things about stepping up to the main game for the first time, such as the sheer amount of PR work there is to do. There’s a lot more of that sort of stuff compared to the Dunlop Series last year.
The other big difference was the physical input required. We did a lot of fitness work in the lead-up to the season opener, but the Friday and Saturday were two of the hottest days at Clipsal for a long time – so it was a lot of hard work.
I think all of the drivers were worried about the 78-lap race on Sunday given how hot it was… and then came the rain.
In the deep end
Before the race on Sunday, I was really hoping it would just stay dry. I hadn’t raced a car in the wet since 2013 in the Dunlop Series, so it had been a long time. And Adelaide isn’t the sort of place where you want to be re-learning things like that, because it’s such an unforgiving place.
But after the first stint of the race, it all started coming back to me. I felt used to it quite quickly, and from there I started to see where I needed to be putting the car and how to get the most out of it in those conditions.
It all added to the learning curve for me. And I can tell you, I really learnt a lot across the weekend.
Shooting for the top
Making the Top 10 Shootout on Sunday was an interesting experience. I have done a single-lap Shootout like that before, but only once, and it was in a V8 Super Tourer car in New Zealand.
I’ve watched plenty of Shootouts on TV, so it was really cool to actually be a part of it. But it’s not easy; I did my warm-up lap, but even then it’s tough to know what sort of grip you can expect to have.
In regular qualifying you get a flyer or two before you go onto greens, so you kind of know what you’re getting. But this was totally different. I went out there and for the first half of the lap it was so slippery, because the Super Trucks had just been out.
Hard to read form
Obviously the fourth place on Sunday was the highlight of the weekend, but even on dry form I was happy with where I was at. I felt that I was constantly closing that gap to Chaz Mostert and Mark Winterbottom, and obviously they are the benchmark for me.
At the moment, I have the Top 10 as my goal – so to achieve that in qualifying on Sunday was excellent. And I reckon we probably would have had a bit better race car than qualifying car too, had it stayed dry. I was happy to be on that pace, particularly given that I’m still relatively inexperienced.
In terms of where we sit overall compared to our rivals, Clipsal is always very difficult to use as a gauge of form. Adelaide is a very unique track, and realistically it will take a few rounds for us to work out exactly where everyone is.
Certainly not point(s)less
For me, not having points on offer at the Australian Grand Prix this weekend is probably a good thing. It’s all seat time, it’s all time in the car, but it’s actually racing – which is exactly what I need at this point in my career.
It’s good to be on a big, quick track too. And to have Formula 1 racing there as well is very cool.
People will probably remember that the Prodrive Fords were very quick at Albert Park last year, but we all have our expectations in check. Obviously there has been a lot of improvement throughout the field since 12 months ago, so we can’t expect to dominate like the boys did last year.
For me personally, I think the track will suit my car and my driving style a lot. So I’m looking forward to getting out there and seeing where the cars are at.
One thing I just found out yesterday is that there’s a good chance I’m going to be able to get into the Mercedes garage this weekend, and have a chat with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
That will be awesome! Obviously I’m watching these guys, week in, week out in F1 – and they are the two best drivers in the world right now.
I’m still not sure what my first question to Lewis will be. I’ll probably start with seeing if he thinks Mercedes will keep their run alive and win on the weekend… and finish by asking him where the after party is going to be!