A millennia old city situated in the south west region of the UK, Bristol is hardly known for producing top-level motorsport talent.
Indeed the city has never had one of its own grace Formula One – 20-year-old Dino Zamparelli is aiming to change all that.
The 2011 Formula Renault BARC champion makes his GP3 Series début at this season’s opening round in Barcelona this weekend.
A podium sitter in the now defunct Formula Two category last year, Zamparelli signed for the Marussia Manor squad in February and with the heat rising, the Anglo-Italian racing divulged his thoughts to TheMotorsportArchive.com about what to expect.
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It is a deal that also sees him become part of the parent team’s Young Driver Programme, but for now, having tested his new GP3/13 machine during three pre-season test session, the Bristolian is keen to get behind the wheel. “I absolutely love the car – it’s really fast and a pleasure to drive. You can carry good speed into the corners and really get the car on the limit.”
The GP3 Series may prove something of a new test for all concerned this year thanks to the introduction of the latest chassis upgrades by Dallara – the GP3/13 – some three years after its predecessor’s début.
Alongside that, series engine supplier, Renault, have dropped the original 2.0 litre turbo-charged unit in favour of a 3.4 litre naturally aspirated motor – a change that produces an 120 bhp to the category, increasing the engine’s overall output to approximately 400 bhp.
Whereas the chassis and engine package has changed significantly, the Pirelli tyre compounds remain the same and in testing, the drop off in performance has been massive, with one driver informing TheMotorsportArchive.com a drop off of up to eight seconds in simulations.
“I’m learning all the time and feel like I’ve been there for a long time already. I’ve been working away with my team focussing on different areas.”
While such a rise in performance may appear to be daunting at first, Zamparelli has made significant leaps in power before and believes previous experience in Formula Two will serve him well. He reveals, “The jump from Formula Renault to F2 in 2011/2012 was quite significant. I really had to get used to more grip, more power and more downforce.”
Continuing on that theme, Zamparelli adds, “The GP3 car has similar power output to the F2 – so for me the transition wasn’t too bad,” notes the Marussia racer. “I feel like F2 taught me a lot about driving a highly powered car and I also got used to European circuits, having only really raced in the UK. I feel like I’m ready for GP3 now.”
Power is something that seems to run in the Zamparelli household, although not strictly of the wheels variety. His father, Mike, was a powerboat racer, won the Embassy Grand Prix at Bristol in 1990, while also enjoying success at numerous other events.
For now, Zamparelli is building his own ties with the Marussia Manor squad and believes he can bring the success that mostly eluded the team last year. “They are a really dedicated and hungry bunch of guys – I feel like I’ve fitted in really well.”
At times it can be easy to forget that GP3 is also a learning category – one of a number of preparatory steps for drivers aiming for the top tier of motorsport, yet the pre-season running proved a tricky prospect for all.
The unusually long winter in Europe ensured numerous wet and cold sessions, with snow only clearing from parts of Spain and Italy in March. While not ideal, Zamparelli was none too perturbed. “Well there were quite a few different weather conditions during the official GP3 testing, which is always good.” Expanding on that thought, Zamparelli adds, “It’s always good to feel the car in different conditions so you can be ready for the season for whatever driving condition comes your way. Watching GP3 last year, it seems like we may need to ready ourselves for a few wet races!”
The pre-season running offered more than thirty drivers opportunities to pilot the new GP3/13, but with the start of competition just around the corner, Zamparelli is measuring his chances as well as the opposition. “It’s difficult to know what people are doing in testing and the times on the screen can count for not much come for the first race. I’m confident that we’re right up there.”
Despite that confidence, Zamparelli believes there are still strides in performance to be made. “There are plenty of areas I have been improving and there have been areas that I still want to work on.”
Yet as much as the GP3 Series is another learning experience and step along the way to Formula One, the 20-year-old sees only one desirable result. “To win,” he comments emphatically, before adding, “I feel like I’ll be ready for the first race. I won’t stop working until I get what I want.” And with that, the start of competition closes in.
The opening round of the GP3 Series comes this weekend from Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.