New Zealand GP2 driver Mitch Evans has wrapped up his first three-day test session with his new Russian Time team and, at this early stage, his lap times indicate he’ll be at the pointy end of the field at their next hit out.
Evans and his new team were in Abu Dhabi late last week, the Kiwi’s first proper run with the Russian outfit since he first had a spin with them in November last year. But, with the season about to start on April 4 in Bahrain, testing is important.
The Aucklander signed at a late stage with Russian Time after the team’s principal, Igor Mazepa, died last April, and after the party looking after all the engineering changed.
Last month, the team announced iSport would return with much the same personnel who were at the helm when they won the GP2 title in 2007 with Timo Glock.
Under the engineering of Motopark last year, they won the teams’ title and their driver, Sam Bird, finished second in the championship to Fabio Leimer.
Evans won the GP3 title in 2012 and moved up into GP2 last year, where he had a stuttering season but got on to the podium four times.
Now he’s preparing for the new season, despite challenging conditions in testing.
“The track conditions were changing massively each day and sometimes lots during the day,” said Evans. “It was hard to get the balance of car right and I was never really totally happy with it.
“Having said that though, everyone was in the same boat, and being able to be inside the top five for most of the test sessions and also being second fastest twice was a good sign.
“It’s all really encouraging and we did some race simulations in the afternoon on day three and we still looked good on the harder tyre.
“I missed being competitive last year and it’s really good to be back being able to challenge again. It’s really good for my confidence and helps so much to be able to work with a good solid platform. It’s been very encouraging to be inside the top five and I hope it continues when we get to Bahrain. The team is also really chuffed to be at the pointy end so early in the season.”
If Evans stays true to form in the feeder categories to Formula One, he’ll be in the title hunt towards the end of the season.
When the Kiwi arrived in GP3 he hit a few speed bumps in his first year in the competitive class but bounced back to take the title the following year.
He had a similar first year in GP2 and is looking to repeat his 2012 feat and be the driver to beat. He’ll have his work cut out, that’s for sure, in a highly contested championship, but Evans has never been shy of hard work and a challenge.
“Ideally, it would be great to win the drivers’ championship this year and that’s our goal. This is my second year in the category and I need to be challenging for the title. Hopefully, we’ll be able to be up the front and I think we’re in a position to do that.
“We’ll be going hard at it during testing to make sure we can get the car as good as possible before the first race.”
Starting today, all the teams and drivers are having another three days of testing at Bahrain International Circuit in preparation for their opening gambit two weeks later as a support category for the F1 Grand Prix at the same track.