Traditionally a front-running team in the second tier, DAMS have spent the past two seasons fighting amongst the midfield, with consecutive eighth-place finishes since the switch to 18-inch tyres, and Team Principal François Sicard admits that his side took longer than most to get on top of the changes.
The 2019 Teams’ title winners took 14 wins between 2017 and 2020, but have won just twice in the past two seasons, and have been without a title-challenging driver since Nicholas Latifi in 2019.
However, Sicard feels that they’re finally getting back to where they should be, with a sharper understanding of the larger Pirelli’s.
“By the end of the 2021 season, performance was much better,” said Sicard. “One of the reasons for that is because we have started to better understand how to exploit the tyres and how to make them work on a different range of tracks.
“We’re still in a learning process in terms of understanding the new 18-inch rims. We have been used to working in single-seaters with 13-inch rims for years, decades even, so it is completely new.
“If you look at our results, it was not exactly the season we were expecting. It took time and we still have things that we need to understand, but I think that we have made quite good progress. The more time you spend on track, the more you understand everything.”
And each of the five drivers they’ve officially run since the end of 2019 has helped them in that regard, with Dan Ticktum, Sean Gelael, Jüri Vips, Roy Nissany and Marcus Armstrong each playing a part.
DAMS scored three podiums in 2021, with Armstrong returning the French team to the top step of the podium in the final two rounds of 2021, with a win in Sprint Race 1 at Jeddah. And the Kiwi came close to adding a second in Sprint Race 2 at Yas Marina but was forced to retire from first with mechanical troubles.
“Every driver you have brings something else,” continued Sicard. “Marcus (Armstrong) and Roy (Nissany) have helped bring some direction last year. Dan (Ticktum), Jüri (Vips), Sean (Gelael), they all did as well. We are gathering information from a different range of drivers.
“During the break between Sochi and Jeddah last season, we analysed and studied and that gave us some good direction and our performance in the last two rounds were good, as shown by Marcus, who won in Jeddah.
“It’s funny because you find that when you’re not succeeding, you’re working even harder than when you were succeeding. The danger sometimes is to question too much and to start to reinvent everything, but you have to keep the foundations of what you know.
“At the same time, you have to remain open-minded to try and find some changes and this is what we have been doing - that’s what we did in the lead up to the last two rounds.”
Bolstering their ranks with the addition of Red Bull-backed rookie Ayumu Iwasa for 2022, DAMS have also opted to retain Roy Nissany for a second season. Sicard is hoping the continuity will help them to further their improvements, while also allowing Iwasa the bedding in period he needs as a first-year.
“I think that with Roy's global experience, and with his experience with the team, we can do well. I think that the stability will help us to make progress on the technical side. It is a good combination of experience and youth.
“It is quite impressive what Ayu (Iwasa) has achieved so far, but we have to bear in mind that he only started Formula 4 two years ago. He has good potential, but we know that he is a rookie, so we have to him learn the category and help him to grow as a racing driver, but it is obvious that the potential is there.
“He spent the last race event with us in Abu Dhabi before the test and he was just as committed as Roy and Marcus (Armstrong). He was following everything that we were doing and asking questions. He is very curious in the right way: he wants to understand. What is nice, is he was always trying to apply our advice while driving.”
Discussing his aims for the future, Sicard has set out a clear two-year plan for the team.
“We would like to be back where we were,” he started. “We are not used to being so far back in the rankings. It is going to take time, but in 2022 I would like to take the next step and then in 2023, I want to be back fighting for the title.”