Although he was one of the five drivers to leave Sakhir with a double points haul in the bag, Ayumu Iwasa has an appetite for more upon his return to Jeddah. Determined to strike the right balance around the formidable street circuit, the DAMS driver believes the potential is there to go all the way to the top step.
Claiming P4 and P8 finishes last time out in Bahrain, the results look great on paper. However, Iwasa admits he was unsatisfied with having to settle for them after struggling to feel comfortable throughout the opening weekend.
“It was quite a tough weekend, it didn’t go well for me. It was quite bad because I didn’t have enough speed in Free Practice and Quali, but still the starting positions for both of the races were quite good. I just didn’t manage the races well enough.
“Of course, getting points in both races was very good, but it was still not a good weekend for me because I was feeling that we are struggling a bit with the car and my performance as well.”
With the looming challenge of navigating the Jeddah Corniche Circuit ahead, the Red Bull junior is undaunted by the prospect. On his debut there last year, he proved he could get up to speed quickly and keep himself out of trouble, earning a sixth and seventh place finishes. Meanwhile, as a team DAMS finished no lower than ninth throughout.
Swapping the spacious Sakhir circuit for the tight and sweeping Jeddah, Round 2 will be an early test of the drivers’ adaptability. Physically demanding throughout, the field need to have the stamina to withstand it and the control to strike the right limit.
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Despite the differences between the tracks, Iwasa’s keen to apply the lessons from the opening round and utilise his previous knowledge to its full advantage.
“I think Jeddah is quite different to the Bahrain track, but for me the main improvement is to find the right balance. For example, even if I was pushing, it was sometimes too much. Then, sometimes I was too safe, so I need to find a good balance because now I have one year of experience from last year.
“From my side, I will push hard because it’s a really high-speed track, so there is reason to have a margin. I just need to push and then if I push to the maximum, I will be able to gain lap time. As a team, we will also push hard with the race strategy, Qualifying and everything and we’ll see what we can do.”
Even with his previous success there, Iwasa doesn’t believe the 6.175km track suits his driving style. Considering the pace DAMS showed there last year and alongside his and teammate Arthur Leclerc’s promising pace in Bahrain, he’s optimistic he can still contend for victory this weekend.
“This isn’t my favourite track because I don’t think it links to my driving style so well, so that’s why I don’t like this track so much. Still, let’s see. The speed was there, so I have confident and also, we are trying to improve even more from last season, so it should be good. Already I’ve seen there are some improvements on my side, so it’s interesting to see our improvement as a team.”
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He added: “As a team, the speed was there, so Roy (Nissany) last year was very quick here in the race. I think we have the potential to win the race, but we need to find the small things to gain more speed and strength – that'll be important.”