Montreal, Canada (February 6, 2008) -- The current three week break in the 2007-08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport schedule allows teams and drivers from the 22 competing nations the opportunity to catch their breath after a pair of thrilling events...
Montreal, Canada (February 6, 2008) -- The current three week break in the 2007-08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport schedule allows teams and drivers from the 22 competing nations the opportunity to catch their breath after a pair of thrilling events down-under in New Zealand and Australia to kick start the 2008-leg of the series.
Toronto's Robert Wickens led A1 Team Canada to podium finishes in both rounds and as a result of the team's double points score in Round 6's Sprint and Feature races, Canada cracked the top-ten of the A1GP Nations Standings for the first time this season with four rounds remaining in South Africa, Mexico, China and Great Britain.
Having returned to Canada, the 18-year-old rookie took some time-out to reflect on his stellar A1GP performances:
Q: Without a doubt you were 'Driver of the Day' in Round 6 in Australia following blistering performances in the Sprint and Feature races! What was the key to your ability to gain so much ground in the wet?
Robert Wickens (RW): "I think with the Sprint race it was just a case of me taking the risk of going to the outside first. Arguably I was one of the first drivers to take the wet line on slick tires and ultimately that's what really paid off. I just took the line and started passing people on the outside of the corners. Obviously it was fairly high risk as the people on the inside would slide up the track. There were a couple of passes near the end where it was pretty hairy! Basically I committed to every move and it worked out well."
Q: When you started 15th in the 14-lap Sprint race did you have any inclination a third-place podium finish would be possible and how satisfying was it to get there?
RW: "To be honest I was just hoping to score some points. I had a decent first lap, it wasn't outstanding but I maintained my position. From there I was able to pass India on the second lap with a fair move. After that everyone seemed to settle into a rhythm although I was faster than the cars ahead of me they were all holding each other up. We toured around in single file for a few more laps and then the rain started to fall.
"After that I saw I could carry a lot more entry speed into the corners and was able to take more chances with the grip on-track. I think the fact that I pushed hard at the start paid off as once it started to rain I had a better tire temperature than some of the others and that gave me a bit of an advantage. Without a doubt it was one of the hardest earned podium finishes I've had in my career. Going from 15th to third is something that doesn't happen every day!"
Q: What was going through your mind on the opening lap of the Feature race as you climbed from 21st to tenth?
RW: "Well when I finished the first lap I was like 'that went a lot better than expected'! I had a great launch off the line at the start of the race passing three or four guys before we'd even reached the first corner. From there it was almost every other corner I was able to pass for position. I'd just take a different line and it would pay off."
Q: You're the first driver to score back-to-back podium finishes for A1 Team Canada and the first to collect three podium finishes. Having started just eight races did you think you'd make that much of an impression as a rookie?
RW: "You always want to make the best impression for whoever you're racing for! I think every driver who races for a team wants to set records. My goal coming into A1GP was to score Canada's first points of the season. We obviously had a great weekend on my debut in Malaysia as we scored a podium in the Sprint. Once you get a podium finish you expect that level of performance for the rest of the year. That was then basically the mind-set we set for ourselves. I think it's pushed us to achieve more and it's helped us score the podium finishes in New Zealand and Australia."
Q: The Eastern Creek round marked Canada's first double-score in over a year and helped elevate the team into the top-ten of the A1GP Nations Standings. In which areas has the team progressed to get to the point where Canada's a consistent front-runner and podium threat?
RW: "Considering this is the first time we've all worked together, the chemistry between us is unbelievable. For example you only have to look at the stats to see how awesome our pit-stops are in the Feature races. The guys do a fantastic job in the pits and that was evidenced again in Australia where I gained two positions after both stops -- keeping me in the top-six both times. I can't thank the guys enough for really working hard during those stops. It proves just how important their role is during the actual race as well as in their preparation."
Q: Is there a belief within the Canadian team that a win could be on the cards before the season's out?
RW: "For sure! We finished second in the Taupo Feature and we definitely had the pace to win that race but things just didn't quite go our way. I do think a win is possible in the near future."
Q: In your short time competing in A1GP you've logged trips to Malaysia, China, New Zealand and Australia. In your opinion how has A1GP been received in these countries and did you spot any maple leaf flags on your travels?
RW: "There were Canadians that I met in both New Zealand and Australia and they all had their flags with them which was great. Some of them were from Toronto so we had plenty to chat about. To be honest I've seen the maple leaf flag at every event I've been to, including China, which is great.
"The coolest race I've participated in this season was Taupo in New Zealand. I say that as the fans just had so much respect for us being there and they were basically treating us all like we were Formula One drivers. It was a really cool experience and they love their motorsport down there and that was reflected in the welcome we received and our treatment throughout the weekend."
Q: What's been the highlight of your A1GP campaign to-date?
RW: "The second place finish at Taupo was definitely a great moment not least as I started fourth but had to overcome the problems with the clutch-stop at the start and in the pits. It was good to have a strong qualifying position and from there we kept our heads down and enjoyed a really quick car!"
Q: You recently confirmed you'll be competing in the 2008 World Series by Renault. What are your expectations heading into your first European-based championship?
RW: "My expectations heading into every championship are always the same! I want to be a consistent top-five runner, get a handful of podiums and when the opportunity's there I want to win. Competing in A1GP has been useful as so many of the drivers I've been racing against compete in Europe also. Without a doubt it's helped me get used to the European driving style. Coming from my Champ Car Atlantic background, for example, you're not allowed to block whereas you can in Europe so I've been learning how to do that without compromising my pace or position."
-credit: team canada