For a driver who’s just finished second in a prestigious all-star race and has a couple of wins under his belt already this year, Alexander Sims is not as happy as you might expect.
Good though his results have been so far this season, he’s after better – and told Brits on Pole that he believes improvement is just around the corner.
His runner-up spot in the Masters of F3 at Zandvoort on Sunday came after he had been fastest across much of practice and had set the best time in both qualifying sessions to start from pole.
Under the circumstances, following ART Grand Prix team-mate Valtteri Bottas home as the Finn became the first driver to win the race two years in a row was considerably less then he’d hoped for.
He said after the race: “I am not really happy with second place but, after Valtteri had overtaken me, it was clear that making it up to the front again would be very difficult.”
Speaking later to Brits on Pole, he said: “It was very nice to be on pole in both qualifying sessions, but the race is what counts at the end of the day so to lose the lead is pretty disappointing.”
Sunday’s race began under a safety car because of a late shower, but the amount of water was sufficiently small that only two drivers – Roberto Merhi and Daniel Juncadella – chose to start on wets.
In the early stages of the race the pair cut their way through the field to the front, but when the weather improved they dropped back again. By then, however, Juncadella had cost Sims his victory.
He said: “It was drizzling, but not quite enough to justify wets. We were all on slicks except for two people and on the opening laps those guys came through.
“I was on the outside and, as Juncadella overtook me, he ran a bit wide. He pushed me off the drier line and Bottas got through. Then within a lap the rain slowed enough that we overtook the other cars.”
Although he and Bottas were now out in front, Sims could not get into a position to overtake for the lead: “I was pushing hard and got close on a couple of occasions, but not close enough.
“It was a bit of a strange way to lose the lead of the race, not out of doing anything wrong. Looking back on it, I know I did my best – I can’t ask anything more of myself. Things didn’t work out in my favour.”
The result was all the more galling for coming in a high-profile race with a reputation for being won by future F1 stars – Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg, David Coulthard, Jos Verstappen and Takuma Sato among them.
This year it was contested by drivers from the British F3 International series, German F3 and GP3 as well as Sims’ rivals in F3 Euro Series.
He said: “It’s a very good opportunity to get a title against your name. Being a one-off race, you can raise your profile with a single win. But it does require a slightly different mind-set – to not hold back at all because there are no [championship] points to get.”
Overall, Sims is able to take some positives from the weekend despite the result. Quoted on the BRDC website, he said: “I’m pretty disappointed with the outcome but the weekend as a whole wasn’t too bad.
“All day on Saturday was very good for us, we were fast in the practice and in both qualifying sessions we managed to be quickest. That was particularly pleasing as we have struggled a bit with qualifying this year, this weekend we turned that around.”
He hopes to carry that momentum into the rest of an F3 Euro Series season that – like the Masters of F3 race – could so far be described as successful, but not as successful as he had hoped.
Currently Sims sits fourth in the championship, trailing only drivers he beat on Sunday – Merhi and the Signature pairing Edoardo Mortara and Marco Wittmann.
He is level on points with Bottas but ranked ahead because of having won at Paul Ricard, while his team-mate at ART has yet to record a victory. Sims also won as an invitational driver in the British F3 championship, but that result nets him no points in either series.
Aside from those bright spots, however, things have not gone to plan. He scored no points at Hockenheim thanks to a crash, and had to settle for a third and a fifth at a processional Valencia.
He told Brits on Pole: “We’ve struggled a bit more than I expected – it’s been a little bit more difficult pace-wise, but I’m happy with the team, they’re very, very good and I have confidence in their ability to turn it round.”
He believes the Zandvoort result is evidence that they are already doing so: “I hope we can take this form through the next part of the season. We have a test coming up at Magny-Cours and hopefully we will be able to get a clearer sense of our pace there. Hopefully we’re turning it around.
“To catch Mortara, who is 19 points ahead of us, will be really tough but our pace has improved enough that we’ll be able to outscore him at most races and hopefully catch him up.”
And he can’t wait to get the chase under way again – the next races at the Norisring are not until the weekend of July 3-4, but he says he is fired up and “desperate to get out there”.