Nathanaël Berthon, who participated in the GP2 Asia Series with Racing Engineering in 2011, is about to start his World Series campaign. However, before the championship kicks off this weekend, the young French driver is looking back on to his participation in GP2 with the Spanish Racing Engineering team. Showing good pace and a strong performance in his GP2 races, the results obtained did not always reflect Nathanaël's efforts. However he is content with his participation in GP2 and hopes to participate in GP2, the stepping stone to Formula 1, in 2012.
Nat, you joined Racing Engineering for GP2 Asia this year after having competed in World Series in 2010. Knowing both cars so well now, tell us about your principal impressions when having made this step up to GP2.
Well, I had my first GP2 test in November and although it was the old GP2 car, it was a fantastic experience for me comparing the GP2 car with what I knew so far. Driving a GP2 car is so much quicker and it gives you such great pleasure as a driver. The braking is so different and you can try to brake later and later each time setting a better time, I really enjoyed the car a lot. Comparing the two championships, GP2 Series looks more professional, World Series is professional as well, but in GP2 you can feel how close it already is to Formula 1 - very close. Another main point for me was the team, I felt so familiar with everyone so quickly. I met all the technical crew for the first time in Abu Dhabi and the day after it already felt as if we have worked together for a long time and were very close. I never experienced this before and had a really good feeling with everyone in the team.
When you compare the car you were used to so far and the GP2 Dallara, what would you consider as the main differences?
The main difference is for sure to be found in the braking, it is a big, big difference. You can press the pedal harder and carry so much more speed into the corner. Also the throttle at the exit is incredible, everything is just faster. After the races in Imola I went to test the World Series car in Paul Ricard and it was a massive difference. Apart from the car, the weekend format requires a different approach and is challenging. But it is the same for everyone, so it is no problem. In Abu Dhabi we had the benefit of the test days before the event and in Imola we had two free practice sessions. I can imagine though that only 1 free practice session is not much time to get the car prepared.
Even though you showed a very steep learning curve while you were with Racing Engineering, luck was not always on your side?
This is true. Additionally the car was new to me, so it's easier to have problems and get into trouble. But I think I showed what I am capable of and my performance was good. I was in the top 10 in free practice and finished my first race in the top 10. I think I can be stronger in the future and I will definitely not repeat the mistakes I made up to now. In Imola I had good races, but both ended by other cars crashing into me. In Abu Dhabi, on the contrary, I was very close to starting race 2 from pole. This would have changed things quite a bit. But the main thing is that everyone saw that I am fast, can overtake and was good during the races, that I can fight and I am there. I hope to be in GP2 in 2012, and then I hope that luck will be with me as I will for sure be stronger. The results will then come by themselves.
So, how would you resume your experience with Racing Engineering in GP2?
There is just one thing to say: It was fantastic!