Ahead of the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, we caught up with Nico to hear his memories of racing at this fast, flowing track and pick up a few pointers for the weekend.
The Qatar Grand Prix weekend promises to be interesting for everybody, as the Losail International Circuit is new for all the F1 teams.
I'm one of the few drivers who has raced there, in the GP2 Asia Series back in February 2009. I was racing in the Formula 3 Euroseries the year before, so it was my first experience of GP2.
I did two rounds with the ART team, in Bahrain and Qatar. I took pole for both races and won the feature race in Qatar, finishing third in the sprint race the next day.
Sergio Pérez [former Team Silverstone driver] won the sprint race. Apparently, he's the only driver on the current F1 grid who has raced there!
I remember it was still the older GP2 car, and I was too tall for it. I was sitting with my head in front of the airbox and out of the car. The buffeting was crazy, so on every straight I had to grab my helmet so I didn’t lose my head!
For those two events, I had a big problem. Fortunately, the next year they introduced the new chassis, the new generation of cars. That was better, as I was able to sit lower.
Every lap matters, and you soon start learning. It's by driving, obviously, that you get the answers.
My memories of the Losail circuit from that weekend are good. I remember it's quite a flowing track and it’s basically medium speed. I recall that it's very flat, with no elevation changes at all. It's just like glass!
I think it was maybe a bit tricky for overtaking, but I liked the track at the time, I remember that much. I also remember there being good hotels and good food in Qatar.
For the teams and drivers, learning a new track is always a challenge, although there have been quite a few in the last couple of seasons with the calendar changes.
A new track is generally exciting for a driver because it's not a place that you know so well from 10 or 15 years of experience.
So, you have to learn with every run you do, with low fuel, high fuel, old tyres, new tyres. Everything is for the first time, and you have to learn quickly, adjust and adapt, so that always adds an extra kind of spice.
Qatar will makes its Formula One debut as part of a Middle East run to end a record-breaking campaign. Most famous for hosting MotoGP, the high-speed and flowing Losail Circuit has international pedigree. It will be a step into the unknown for the field, who have no relevant experience of the circuit.
I think the approach is pretty much the same at any new venue, it's just about the learning curve. You go out each run and you see what you find.
The engineers are looking at the asphalt and things like how the tyres are working, what the warm-up is like and how the tyres behave after one, two or three laps.
It's all these kinds of things. Every lap matters, and you soon start learning. It's by driving, obviously, that you get the answers.
Like I said earlier, I generally like going to new tracks. Obviously, if it's one you don't like, tough luck! But Losail is a good and flowing kind of track. I think it will be pretty quick in an F1 car…
Thanks to Nico for bringing his thing and sharing his experiences from Qatar: #IAMSTORIES
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