A red-hot finish to the 2020 season, where they scored 123 points in the final three rounds, saw Carlin overtake Hitech Grand Prix by two points to finish third in the Teams’ Championship. It actually caught the team off-guard. They’d been focused on Yuki Tsunoda’s title bid and were unaware P3 was still a possibility heading into the finale.

This year, they’re acutely aware of the possibilities and team boss Trevor Carlin is refusing to give up on either title, believing that a similarly strong finish with six races to go could see them do the double.

Dan Ticktum and Jehan Daruvala have shared four podiums, including two wins, between them in the past two rounds, scoring a total of 80 points, which has lifted the British team to second in the Teams’ title race, ahead of UNI-Virtuosi.

“We’re glad that we are up to second, but I do think that we should be closer to PREMA, if not ahead of them, in the Drivers’ and the Teams’ Championships.” Says Carlin. “We just had a few little rocky incidents at the beginning of the season that stopped us accruing the points.

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Ticktum and Daruvala have shared four podiums including two wins between them in the past two rounds
Ticktum and Daruvala have shared four podiums, including two wins, between them in the past two rounds

“Since then, we have been on fire. Jehan (Daruvala) has stepped up in the last two rounds, while Dan (Ticktum), come the races, has always been in the hunt. He's on the podium two times out of three every weekend. There are still six races to go, and I haven't given up on fighting for both championships.

“To be honest, I think our only real competition is Oscar (Piastri). I think we can cover off the rest of the guys quite nicely in the final run-in. We need to get slightly better in Qualifying so that we are in the hunt to put pressure on Oscar. I do think that we can beat him.”

Qualifying has been Carlin’s Achilles’ heel this season, with just two front-row starts all season courtesy of Daruvala in the previous two rounds.

The Red Bull junior has been rejuvenated in the second half of the season, doubling his podium tally for the year in the past two rounds, with his first win in the second Sprint Race at Monza and third place in the Sochi Feature Race.

And Carlin says that the 23-year-old returned from the summer break in a much better mental state.

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Carlin overtook UNI-Virtuosi in the Teams standings in the last round
Carlin overtook UNI-Virtuosi in the Teams' standings in the last round

“For some reason, it just didn't seem to all come together for him at the start of the year,” said Carlin. “Since we've had that gap in the summer, he has come back and is totally chilled, totally relaxed and has upped his game.

“Being a second-year driver, I think he maybe came into the year with slightly higher expectations, whereas now he is just relaxed and driving naturally and all of the sudden the results are coming, so I think that it might have been pressure related.

“He is doing a great job now and hopefully he can storm up the standings and help us to get two cars in the top five, maybe even the top four.”

Ticktum has been the most consistent of the two, both in Qualifying and in races, averaging more than a podium-a-round, but the British driver is yet to finish higher than fourth on a Friday.

Having started the year with four successive top-five finishes in Qualifying, he’s been out of the top five in both of the last two rounds. Despite that, he’s still managed two podiums, including a win, and it’s left Carlin with a lingering feeling of ‘what if.’

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Daruvala has doubled his podium tally in the last two rounds
Daruvala has doubled his podium tally in the last two rounds

Carlin continued: “Dan is a great racer, he never gives up, as we saw in the Feature Race at Monza. Dan had more hits than Elvis in that last race. How the car kept going, I will never know, but it did, and Dan got it on the podium. One lap more and I think that we could have even won it.

“He is a fighter, and he’s a very entertaining racer. I talk to people who like racing and they are always talking about Dan. He is always on TV, racing and battling, it is brilliant to watch. If he can start in the first two rows, then I really think that we can put pressure on Oscar.”

If the team can improve their Qualifying performances, then Carlin believes that both Championships are still within reach. They currently trail PREMA Racing by 88 points in the Teams’ standings, while Ticktum is 49 off Piastri in the Drivers’ Championship.

“I do think that our race pace is better than PREMA's,” he said. “We just need to start higher up. We’ve been playing catch up too often. If you start 10th, then it’s a miracle if you get to the podium, but we have done that on numerous occasions. So, if we can start in the top four, then all of a sudden we are there to fight for the wins.”

There will be an element of the unknown in the next round at Jeddah. None of the grid have any real racing experience at the new Saudi Arabian circuit, but Carlin believes that Ticktum’s history of performing on street circuits will give them an edge.

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Ticktum has more than a podium a round this season
Ticktum has more than a podium a round this season

“Everyone is in the same boat, so it will be down to preparation and which drivers can adapt to it the quickest,” said Carlin. “The thing with Dan is that he is really good on a street circuit, so I do think that it could play into our hands. Dan has got a lot of experience on a street track and we’re expecting it to be a bit of a street track, so I think that he will be on it.

“There will be lots of straights with heavy braking and I think that suits our base set-up, so if we can hit the ground running, then we can be in great shape. I am really looking forward to it.

“Then we’re finishing in Abu Dhabi, where we’ve had some good results before. That is more set-up based, more of a normal track. Dan and Jehan have both been there before and we expect them both to be quick.”