Team Air Asia plan to make a mockery of their GP2 ‘new team’ tag
They may be the new boys to Formula One's main feeder series – but Team Air Asia aim to compete with their Norfolk rivals and the rest of GP2.
The sister team to Hingham-based F1 outfit Team Lotus set out on GP2's Main Series this weekend, alongside the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul, with promising you drivers Davide Valsecchi and Luiz Razia at the wheel.
As well as coming up against some of the category's most successful teams, they will also have an eye on topping GP2's Norfolk contingent, including Carleton Rode's former champions Isport and Griston's Super Nova Racing.
And given the Valsecchi/Razia duo was impressively quick during pre-season testing at Silverstone and Barcelona, there are signs they could pull a surprise or two in the team's first Main Series campaign.
'It would be a big surprise for everybody to see our cars in first or second place because no one does that – you come in with a new team, you start from the bottom and then you grow up through the years,' said likeable 22-year-old Brazilian racer Razia.
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'But because we have very good people working and two good drivers, it has all combined well together. The tests we had in Abu Dhabi, Barcelona and Silverstone were very good and very competitive.
'The car is looking good and the team is working well, and obviously everybody thinks it's new – yes, it is new; sometimes we are going to get wrong because everybody working together for the first time is quite tricky.
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'But we have two quite experienced drivers in me and Davide and I think this is key for a good car for the season. We've already built a good car on those pre-season tests and now we are really looking forward to Turkey.'
While the winter's GP2 Asia Series was curtailed because of the unrest in Bahrain, Team Air Asia saw Valsecchi take seventh in the drivers' championship – with the team taking the same position in their category.
But the flamboyant 24-year-old Italian – who finished 12th with Isport in the Main Series last season – hopes to be even more competitive this time around.
'Isport was really good; I loved the team, it was a really good year for me and I thank them because I really enjoyed it – the boss Paul Jackson is a really good man and I loved the people working there,' said Valsecchi.
'This year I'm really happy to be in Team Air Asia and really excited for this season. My engineer Patrick Coorey is really good and works me hard to achieve our aims, so it's a really good feeling and I really hope to be competitive, to enjoy myself and hopefully give some satisfaction to the team.
'The team is new and usually it is not an advantage – it can be a bit difficult to fight with the other teams with a lot of experience.
'But behind our team there is a big structure like Team Lotus, so we can get some advantages form them and I really hope the team will be competitive for the whole season long to permit me to stay at the top.
'Looking at GP2 it is a bigger challenge because we are new and it is not easy just to say we have Team Lotus behind us. You have to do it, you have to beat some teams like Isport, with a lot of experience and championships – one with me (2010 Asia Series), one with Timo Glock. You have to beat some really strong teams.
'But the feeling at the moment is that we are strong enough to stay with them and stay in the top five, and then just to win a race you have to be lucky – you have to be fast, not make mistakes.'
Isport will be Team Air Asia's top competition for Norfolk honours with Sam Bird and Marcus Ericsson at the wheel, while Super Nova will be pinning their hopes on Group Lotus-backed Renault F1 reserve driver Fairuz Fauzy and Luca Filippi.
Hethel's Group Lotus – a completely different operation to Team Lotus – also back top French GP2 team ART, where Jules Bianchi is almost certain to be near the front of the grid, while Attleborough's Venezuelan star Rodolfo Gonzalez will be alongside 2010 Comtec driver Stefano Coletti at Trident Racing.