Jack Doohan says that he and Invicta Virtuosi Racing can be cautiously optimistic after finishing the first day of in-season testing quickest overall. Doohan set a 1:24.177 to end up almost half-a-second quicker than anybody, a result that has the team feeling hopeful that it is close to fixing their early season woes.
Invicta Virtuosi has left no stone unturned in their analysis of the opening four rounds of the season according to Doohan. Currently 13th and 9th in the Drivers’ and Teams’ Championships respectively, the team completely changed their approach to in-season testing after a tough start to the 2023 Formula 2 season.
Having come up with a bespoke plan for the three-day test, ending Wednesday as fastest overall was a decent step, but there is nobody in the garage getting carried away just yet.
“It was a confidence building day,” Doohan explained. “I’m not trying to get my hopes up too much as it’s only testing and unfortunately, this performance hasn’t come on a race weekend, but it’s steps in the right direction. We’ve focused on fixing what was wrong this week 100%.
“We’re getting there slowly but surely. I’m slowly getting the feeling back and feeling more comfortable. We’re trying to really eliminate these underlying issues that are causing us to not be where we should be. So, I’m happy with today but we need to keep pushing to go further and make sure we can really eliminate what was going on.”
The Australian has appeared on the podium only once so far this year, and looked below the pace he demonstrated so ably in his rookie campaign. Topping the opening day of the test around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, venue of his maiden F2 podium back in 2022, is a positive but there are still plenty of tempered expectations in the Virtuosi camp going into Day 2.
Since pre-season testing in Bahrain, the British team has been working hard to identify the root causes of Doohan’s issues. The Alpine Academy driver says that there have been plenty of long nights back at the team’s Norfolk base, stripping and repreparing the car between rounds, albeit with limited effect.
“It’s been unfortunate but that just comes with motorsport sometimes. It’s a mechanical car and it’s very hard for things to be exactly the right way, so we’ve had a few underlying things.
“The guys only had a day and a half from getting the cars back from Baku and then to come here. Credit to them, they were spending almost 24 hours straight and longer in the factory, really pulling everything apart and putting it all back together and changing some of the components in the hopes that we will be able to solve some issues.
“We have a big test plan for trying to eliminate stuff and luckily, some of the things we’ve done seem to have helped a little bit and so we understand it a little bit better. I’m hoping that what we’ve changed for today has put us in a bit of a better area and hopefully this can be a turning point and be almost the pre-season test for me.”
With the threat of rain lingering in the forecasts for the remaining two days of running, identifying problem areas early on has been a crucial mission for Invicta Virtuosi and one that they seem satisfied they have accomplished.
“The track was only going to get better from here, the times were going to get better and there will be lots of running on options, but I didn’t really care about that. I would have gone out and done two sets of options this afternoon and used them even if no one else did, just because I need to get comfortable again. I need to get that feeling back and with the risk of rain over the next two days, I couldn’t risk not being able to have that.
“It’s a check in the box for me, maybe a medium sized check as I’m still not certain or 100%. What I was feeling today was a lot better, but it’s not the race weekend and so I want to see what happens when we’re in full race trim.
“I’m happy to have a lot better feeling and a lot more confidence than in the start of the year. We just need to focus on ourselves, make sure we maximise this test and put ourselves in a good position going forward.”