The 2022 campaign is tough to assess for British stalwarts Carlin. Liam Lawson earned four race victories across the season while rookie teammate Logan Sargeant secured two himself, achieving F1 promotion with Williams for 2023.
Second in the Teams’ Standings however is a mixed result to take for a team that holds the level of expectation and performance that Carlin does. This year the team welcomes Enzo Fittipaldi off the back of perhaps his finest season in racing so far and Zane Maloney, the ‘Boy from Barbados’ who mounted a title charge in F3 as a rookie from nothing. The pair will be tasked with starting this year as strongly as their predecessors did in 2022.
Deputy Team Principal Stephanie Carlin characterises last season as a blazing start that ultimately couldn’t quite be sustained. Recounting the early phase of the year, Carlin says that the team hit the ground running following the months of preparations that it underwent.
“To do so strongly in Bahrain with Liam and Logan - our expectations were always relatively measured because Logan was going into the season as a rookie, and he had a lot to learn,” she explained. “Even though he was coming from Formula 3, it's still a massive jump and it's still a hugely competitive field.
“With Logan, it was very much about trying to get him up to speed as quickly as possible and allowing him to find his feet in the Championship. Liam came out of the gates really strong. We had a bit of an issue with pitstop in Jeddah, but we showed in those first two opening events that we were always quick.
“I don't think there was really one race weekend where we didn't have a quick car, which is absolutely the dream. It's testament to all the hard work that the team had put in, the level of preparation that they've put in. It meant we started strongly, that was a huge positive.
“I guess the kind of negative from that was that it wasn't always rewarded with the podiums and the wins that we were aiming for. There was a level of frustration in that respect. We weren't always able to capitalise on the great pace that we had and the job that the drivers did.
“It was a really positive season. From that from the point of view, team preparation and the pace that we showed, we were always competitive. It’s just a bit frustrating that the results didn't always come our way through various circumstances.”
Having achieved a strong season but missed out on the title the team feels they deserved, rebounding for 2023 is the focus at the moment. According to Carlin, no stone has been left unturned by the team as it looks to go one better this year, having come so close to the Championship last time out.
Throughout ’22, the team worked hard on its pitstop procedures and by the end of the campaign, had one of the most well-drilled teams in the pit lane. Continuity heading into the new season this time around will count in Carlin’s favour, with the same high standards to target once again.
“I don't think there's one area in focus. The team is now so strong across the board. We're competing in a sport first and foremost where there's always going to be things that are outside your control. There's always an element of unpredictability that comes with it. But we are very fortunate to have the same strong team and look at ways to improve. Even though we were very fast at every race, there's still more we know we can do and that's what's fantastic about this team, it never rests.
“Last year, we had a couple new mechanics in the F2 team at the start of the season. Going straight into live pitstops is a real big challenge, yet we finished the season with pretty much the strongest and quickest pit crew in the whole pit lane. That was because we put a system in place that really helped and supported the guys and they absolutely dedicated themselves to not only their personal fitness, but the pitstop practice.
“We've looked at every aspect of the team throughout the season, from pitstops, to set-up, to driver development, to driver sim preparations, we know where we can improve still. I think it's lots of little bits in lots of little areas that make the difference, now it's just kind of fine tuning really. Having had a season where we were strong, there's improvements that can be made to make us even stronger. As we head into 2023, we’re really positive and still really ambitious that we can take another step forward yet again.”
One step forward would mean Championship success this time around. Having come up just short against MP Motorsport in the three-team fight in the final round at Yas Marina, the team still takes solace in the strong finish to the campaign.
That positive momentum is a critical factor according to Deputy Team Principal Carlin, who insists that any strong results from the latter stages of last year has a big effect on how any team enters the following year.
For Carlin, Lawson’s Sprint Race victory and Feature Race podium along with Sargeant’s F1 promotion mean that spirits are high at the team heading into Round 1 in Bahrain.
“You can't underestimate how important it is to end ’22 on a high note. We managed to clinch second in the Teams’ Championship at the final event, which was amazing, and it still didn't feel good enough for the team. We want to win the Teams’ Championship, we want to win the Drivers’ Championship.
“We take each weekend as it comes but to finish last season on a high like we did, to have the pace in testing as well in the post-season tests, it's really helpful to us to go into the winter with strong results and a strong car. It helps build momentum, helps the atmosphere within the team for the new season. So, it always helps to go into the new season with a really positive and strong mindset.”
The trip to Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia is the big stand-out on the calendar and a trip that Carlin has marked out as the biggest proposition facing all the teams in ’23.
Without any prior experience around the track and with the new layout making it an even faster average lap, drivers will be working hard on the sim to get to grips as soon as possible. It will be the flyaway rounds where the season takes shape and Carlin says the first three rounds pose the biggest obstacle to overcome for all.
“Going to Australia so early in the season, with it being a new circuit, that's going to be a huge challenge. It's been a while since we've had a new circuit that's new to all the teams. We've had certain circuits like Zandvoort that most of the teams will have experienced as European teams.
“I don't think that any of the Formula 2 teams will have raced in their own capacity in Melbourne. So that's going to be a really big challenge and a really exciting one. It will kind of level the playing field a little bit and it'll be really important to set off on the right foot from a set-up point of view there. That's going to be an exciting challenge for everybody and probably going to be the biggest challenge.”