Carlin Motorsport racer Nick Yelloly is confident his sidestep to the GP3 Series in 2013 will bear fruit in his push to reach Formula One.
Hailing from Staffordshire in England, Yelloly had previously raced in the original iteration of the GP3 Series in 2011 with Atech CRS, before moving to Formula Renault 3.5 in latter part of the year.
A full season in the Renault 3.5 category followed in 2012, with Yelloly enjoying a confident run with Comtec, picking up two wins and a further two runner-up spots on his way to 5th in the championship, before announcing his switch back to GP3 with Trevor Carlin’s eponymous team.
On his return to the Formula One support series, the 22-year-old scored a 4th place in race one, but was punted out of the Sunday morning opener while running in a podium place.
Yelloly entered this year with plenty of experience behind him and with Carlin; he believes a title push is very much on the cards. “This is probably one of the first times that I’ve gone into a season with a team that have won a lot before and Carlin are proven championship winners.”
With Red Bull junior driver Antonio Felix da Costa behind the wheel of the original GP3/10 machine, Carlin enjoyed a solid run to 3rd last season and it is a performance Yelloly believes that success can be repeated and even improved upon. “They fought at the front last year and yes, it is a different car, but it is all the same people that made the car fast in the first place, so I’m pretty confident about that,” notes the World Series race winner. He adds, “I’ve got the experience of higher power, a bit of age and experience with tyres going off, whereas the older tyres in GP3 didn’t really go off. There’s a bit of extra pressure, but if you can’t deal with pressure, then this isn’t the sport to be in.”
Introducing the GP3/13 chassis and engine package has virtually transformed the face of the championship from one of an underpowered category with low buzzsaw-sounding engines to one which aligned itself as a healthy step up from Formula 3.
The naturally aspirated 3.4 litre engines and slightly reconfigured aerodynamic programme have certainly upped the laptimes, with the pole lap in Spain some 4.449 seconds quicker than last year’s effort, although the unchanged tyre compounds have proved a touch dramatic in their degradation – a factor picked up in pre-season testing. “The track temperatures [in testing] will never be as high as what we will run [at race weekends], but you never know with the way the weather is in Europe at the moment. You never know what the weather will be like, but it should be a lot warmer than what we tested in.”
As with all the competitors in the GP3 Series this year, Yelloly has found the Pirelli tyres a troublesome component due to excessively high wear, but one that needs to be mastered if success is to come.
Indeed the nature of the new car and the Pirelli’s saw lap times drop by approximately 7-10 seconds per lap by the end of the races; however the Englishman was pleased with how the new machine handled. “GP3 have done a really good job with the new car,” says the Carlin lead. “The old car wasn’t a proper racing machine – the engine was quite flat and there wasn’t much grip. Now it feels like the old World Series [by Renault] from around 2011 – there’s a fair bit of power and not tonnes of grip, although the new car […] is a completely different animal to the old car.“
Carlin have achieved much since their formation in the mid-90s and it is that success that has served to boost Yelloly’s belief in the team. “Being at Carlin is great, because we have a bit of cross reference with the GP2 team who have already ran in hot conditions and seen how their car behaved, so I don’t think it will hamper us too much.”
With eight British Formula 3 titles, as well as a couple of World Series crowns in Carlin’s drawers, Yelloly has had plenty of praise for his new team. “They are probably the most professional that I have worked with and they are very, very thorough.” He continues, “Mike Lugg is my engineer; he is very experienced and won in Formula 3 with [Jean-Eric] Vergne, so I have some very good people on my side.
“They are very serious when it comes down to business. We just have to get on with using the car – we have just got on with our job, not really worry about the times, because we’re pretty confident that we will be there or thereabouts.”
Inevitably there have been questions as to why Yelloly has transferred back to the GP3 Series in light of his achievements in the Formula Renault 3.5 category; however for the Staffordshire native, it was all quite simple – and very familiar. “Money is a big thing. We couldn’t fund another season [in Formula Renault 3.5] in a top team,” comments Yelloly. “I was with Comtec, who came last in the championship the year before and that was a very good deal, but to go and win it [in a top team] or be in the mix with [Antonio Felix] da Costa, [Kevin] Magnussen and [Stoffel] Vandoorne, we just couldn’t afford it.”
It is a story now all too common along the ranks feeder series categories, as drivers struggle to meet the rising costs of competing in motorsport; however Yelloly was undeterred by the financial barriers ahead. “I thought ‘what’s the next best thing to do to relight the fire?’ and GP3 with Carlin was a no-brainer. We got a good deal. The car was coming up in performance; you learn the Pirelli tyres, race in front of the Formula One bosses and get to drive for Trevor as well,” states Yelloly matter-of-factly, before adding, “That was the motivation.”
As GP3 is not running in Monte Carlo this year, there is several weeks until the next competitive meet at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia; however the meantime, the field is to congregate in June at the Hungaroring for its sole in-season test. Yelloly is confident that the team can at least go some way to solving some of the heavy tyre wear issues that cropped up in Barcelona.
Despite his drawbacks in the opening round, Yelloly is realistic about the potential for the rest of the season and of the long term. “The aim is to win, as everyone will say. Really, we’re trying to raise the money to either do something similar to Robert Wickens, where he went back to World Series to win, but ideally [the future] would be GP2.
“If the money is not there, then you have to look at different routes or go into sportscars, GTs or LMPs, but at the moment I am still fully focused on getting into Formula One, so therefore either World Series or GP2.”