Jordan King came close to realising his dream of racing in Formula One, with him serving as a reserve and development driver for the Manor F1 Team for a couple of seasons before ultimately moving on to IndyCar and WEC.
King, who most recently competed in the World Endurance Championship (WEC), spoke to Formula1News.co.uk about the challenges of racing in different series and outlined a potential initiative to make the F1 field even more competitive.
Different Series, Different Challenges
Over the course of his career, King has competed in several different forms of motorsport, from endurance competitions to racing single-seaters on grand prix-style circuits.
Commenting on the different challenges of competing in different series, King said that while each one has its own unique challenges, one is not inherently easier than another.
“All racing series are just as challenging and just as enjoyable for different reasons,” King told Formula1News.co.uk.
“I’ve grown up through my career racing on sort of grand prix tracks with single-seaters. So for me now, something like a Formula Two race is probably the least challenging from an experience standpoint and because I’ve done the most of it.
“But it still holds all of the same challenges…. you’re still trying to get 100 percent out of the car, and that will never change and applies to all races.
“But for example, Le Mans holds its obvious own challenges. It’s a 24 hour race for starters, which in itself is crazy. And then you’re sharing the car, you’ve got three people in the car.
“You go into a night race, day race, over a 24-hour period the weather is changing, temperatures are changing, much more than maybe the one or two degrees you would get in a one or two hour race.
“And IndyCar had its own new challenges for me. For me, all the circuits were new, give or take. It’s a different style of racing, different style of car.
“And then you have the ovals, I had never drive on an oval before I did the Indy 500, so that was a very steep learning curve,” he added.
Reiterating, King said he “wouldn’t say one is harder than the other, because winning is never easy in whatever you’re doing in life,” but he’s “definitely more comfortable in the F2-style sprint racing in single-seaters because I’ve done more of it.
“Having said that, I’ve had just as much success in WEC. I won the first weekend I ever did in WEC, so they hold their own challenges and you’ve just got to get your head around them,” the 26-year-old added.
More Testing For Backmarkers
F1 drivers will have an hour less to practice on Friday for all race weekends of the 2021 season, with revised regulations published by the FIA in December revealing that FP1 and FP2 will be an hour long instead of the 90-minute sessions we’ve become accustomed to.
Some pundits have speculated that this could lead to more unpredictable racing, with some teams and drivers potentially not having enough time to dial their cars into the circuit and get their set-ups spot on.
King downplayed the importance of running time in free practice sessions when it comes to helping teams develop their cars, though they sometimes trial new parts and gather data.
Instead, the British racing driver said private testing is more important when developing a race car – and suggested giving weaker teams extra private test days could be a good way to help them close up on the pace-setters.
“I’m kind of nonplussed about the format of a race weekend,” King said.
“Obviously I’d like to spend as much time in a race car because I enjoy it, but if it was five weeks or two days, it kind of doesn’t matter because the only thing that counts is the race result at the end.
“I think what’s more important is having the other testing, the private testing where teams can actually try to make a difference and improve the car.
“I mean, if you have more testing on a Thursday and Friday, it’s not going to make the cars particularly quicker, it’ll just mean the cars are more tuned in to the race track.
“Maybe one way of managing it is based on last year’s finishing position.
“For example, Mercedes get two private test days, while whoever finished tenth gets 15 private test days where they can do their own testing and private development work.”
When asked if he struggled to find motivation to perform at the highest level when he was a reserve and development driver, King stressed that he was still competing in another Championship and noted that contemporary test drivers have a much more limited role than those of a couple of decades ago.
“I think the role of a test driver in the 21st century is quite limited, it’s not what it used to be.
“I remember speaking to a few guys who were test drivers in the ‘90s and early 2000s, when there was a proper test team and there was two drivers who were full-time test drivers and were driving 100, 200 days a year.”
‘Never Say Never’
A number of racing drivers, such as Brendon Hartley, managed to finally make it into F1 after it seemed they had already missed their opportunity.
Asked if he felt he could yet have another chance to get a full-time drive in the pinnacle of motorsport, King didn’t rule it out but emphasised that it would be quite a challenge even if an F1 team did want to sign him due to the difficulties of qualifying for a Super Licence when not racing in Formula 2.
“Never say never, but for me – I suppose Brendon probably felt the same – but for me it feels that boat has sailed,” King said.
“Obviously there’s a lot of politics in Formula One, they’ve now got the Super Licence point systems, so people like Brendon who had made those jumps wouldn’t be able to make them now. It’s very hard to amount enough points in three years of racing in WEC.
“The FIA has now made some changes, such as extending it to four years, they can give discretionary points, your ASN can give discretionary points, and they’ve amended the points for a few championships,” he noted.
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