A successful test program in Abu Dhabi has boosted Alex Peroni’s confidence of being competitive in next year’s new FIA Formula 3 Championship.
The 19 year-old Hobart racer was among the frontrunners for much of the three day test, which concluded on December 1. Driving a current GP3 Series car, very similar to the new model to be used in the rebranded 2019 championship, he posted top-five lap times in two of the six track sessions.
That was despite no previous experience driving the 400 bhp racing car, having his first outing with the Campos Racing team, and never having driven before on the tortuous Yas Marina Grand Prix circuit.
Peroni had been unsure how he’d compare with other drivers at the test who’d raced this year in GP3 or Formula 3. Both cars are significantly faster than the Formula Renault that he’s raced in the Eurocup series for the past two seasons.
But any doubts were blown away on the second day, when he was fourth fastest of the 20 drivers in the morning test session. He backed that up with the fifth fastest lap in the morning session on the final day.
More impressive to the Campos Racing engineers were his quick adjustment to the GP3 car’s higher power and unique handling characteristics, and his feedback on how it behaved around the 5.55km, 21-turn, concrete-walled street circuit.
On his return home, Peroni talked excitedly about the crucial test.
“I was a bit nervous before the first session, driving a car with nearly double the power and more grip than anything I’d been in before, on an unfamiliar circuit,” he admitted.
“The Campos Racing engineers were great though. They let me settle in at my own pace on the first day, so I could push the car to its limits on the second and third days.
“What surprised me about the GP3 car wasn’t so much its extra acceleration but the heavy steering through the corners due to the grip of the wider, softer tyres. My arms started getting tired after about eight laps, which is around half the distance of the longer of the two races at a GP3 round.
“The team told me this was normal for drivers who haven’t raced in GP3 or Formula 3 before, so I’ll start work on raising my fitness level further now!
“I also had to learn how to conserve the Pirelli tyres used in the series. Unlike Formula Renault tyres, which have to last for more than one full race distance, GP3 has a range of tyres with fantastic grip when they’re new but are designed to lose grip quickly after different distances, like in Formula 1.
“Being fourth and fifth-quickest in two sessions, ahead of the drivers who dominated this year’s Formula Renault Eurocup, was very satisfying. It did a lot to restore my confidence after some difficult Eurocup rounds in the past year.”
Peroni hopes to confirm his entry in the 2019 FIA Formula 3 Championship in the near future.
“Now that the test is over, I’m focusing on preparing for next year,” he said. “I don’t yet have a full budget for the FIA Formula 3 Championship, but my fundraising team is working flat-out to get me there.
“We welcome new supporters and sponsors who want to come on board for 2019.
“Although worldwide competition for the 30 available entries will be tight for the championship, which will feature on the Formula 1 schedule, I’m confident that with the required funding I can secure a drive and be competitive.
“Thanks to my supporters and sponsors, in particular Blundstone, for making this GP3 test possible. I also welcome Blundstone back as a major sponsor in 2019.”
ALEX PERONI’S GP3 TEST SUMMARY
DATE: 29/11 – 1/12/18
VENUE: Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE
TEAM: Campos Racing (Spain)
Session 1: 19th (1m 55.936s) – In Alex’s first drive of a GP3 car on an unfamiliar circuit, he was consistently in the top third of the field on used tyres until most of the other drivers fitted new tyres late in the session.
Session 2: 18th (1m 56.092s) – Simulated race situation on used tyres to test driver endurance rather than set a fastest lap time.
Session 1: 4th (1m 55.245s) – Alex’s fastest lap of the test, and first top-five lap.
Session 2: 10th (1m 55.608s)
Session 1: 5th (1m 55.448s) – Alex’s second-fastest lap of the test, and second top-five lap.
Session 2: 10th (1m 55.570s)