Despite turning up at Austin with the fastest car in all types of conditions - wet, intermediate and dry - we unfortunately only walked away from the weekend with third place, which really didn’t show the car’s potential or do it justice. We’d grabbed pole position with just over a second advantage compared to the next closest car so all signs were good early on. Come raceday we were leading by 30 seconds after the first stint, but then the rain came during the second stint and turned everything on its head. We ended up stuck in the gravel after aquaplaning in a straight line on slicks and had to watch as the Audis put a lap on us. At that point the red flag came out, which shows just how bad the conditions were. After that we got going again at just over a lap behind, and we managed to claw back and unlap our selves, eventually salvaging third place. We ended up 45 seconds behind the lead Audi and only ten seconds behind second place so it was a really strong race; unfortunately it was just the conditions that were against us yet again following on from Le Mans. In some ways this was a relief because before arriving in Austin I didn’t really know what to expect. It was arguably Audi’s strongest circuit last season and I was a little bit anxious about going there. After such a long summer break I feared other teams may have had the chance to improve (though we’d found some improvements ourselves) but you’re never sure if the pecking order is going to be the same when you arrive back. Though it was far from perfect for us, from the fans point of view at least it was a great spectacle with lead changes and challenging conditions. It also gave us a chance as drivers to test our skills in all types of conditions. Plus, in one race alone we got to test every single type of tyre that Michelin has available to us. We started the race on our preferred dry weather tyre – the more durable of the two compounds that we had – then obviously in the wet we put the full wet tyre on. In slightly drying conditions we went onto the intermediate tyre before going back onto the full dry, doing a full circle of the whole range of tyres during the event. The car had pretty much exactly the same balance throughout, which is exactly what you are looking for. Wet or dry, the car didn’t throw any surprises so you always pretty much knew what to expect. As soon as you turned the steering wheel you had the same result whether it was wet or dry which is what you’re always hunting for. Achieving that is much harder than people think. It’s storm season in Texas so quite often you get mega thunderstorms. Luckily it ended up just being heavy rain but because the radar struggled to determine the conditions immediately – as it’s a completely different weather system to what we’re used to in Europe – it made it a real challenge to prepare. It’s still a new race venue for everyone, including those in Formula 1 or WEC, so we’re all still kind of learning the location. Unfortunately we didn’t have luck on our side to capitalise on the weather this time. Aside from the weather, Austin is an amazing circuit. For a modern track that’s less common as they sometimes fall foul of being a bit clinical and a bit too sterile, so Austin’s design is one that all future circuits should look at. It has the right recipe - its got some fast flowing corners and it’s overall very challenging, especially in the first and second sector. It really makes a driver think about where to place the car to carry the speed, and essentially mimics the Senna Esses at Suzuka or Maggots and Becketts at Silverstone. It’s great to drive a car with a lot of downforce through there. Yes, you do still have a huge amount of run-off areas that are tarmacked over, but its much more challenging than most other tracks we go to. And it really has character as well. After the weekend the good thing is that moving forward we still know we’ve got a fast car – as strong as it was when we won the first two races of the season in fact – so that’s a positive for fighting for the world championship. We’ve still got a great chance. And now we’ve put that behind us, and we still have the lead of the championship by 11 points. We’ve got Fuji next – our home race – a track that we were strong at last year with a pole position, so we go there looking forward to a good race. It’s a track that I enjoy driving on and last year we had huge amounts of rain that called the race off, so hopefully for the fans’ sake there’ll be a dry race! Fuji, is one of our better circuits, so we’re all fully motivated to go there and win, now knowing that we have a strong car so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be straight on the pace when we arrive there. Without the bad luck of the last two races (Le Mans and Austin) – where we should have won – all we need is a straightforward weekend, and I’m sure victory is within reach. I’m massively pumped up for it and the closer we get to the climax of the championship the more I can’t wait to get back into the car. It felt like the summer break was way too long. We had a little taste in Austin, and now I’m just raring to go for the rest of it.
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