Starting vibes: 2016 season

With the Formula One teams showing and testing their new cars in Spain, their virtual equivalent — the iRacing’s World Championship Grand Prix Series — is set to start next Saturday. Driving Coanda’s McLaren MP4-30 are Mitchell deJong, Martin Krönke, André Bötcher, Martti Pietilä, Hugo Luis Calmon, and Rocco Barone. We catch up with them — as excitement for the new season mounts to new heights.

How have you prepared for the new season?
Mitchell deJong:
“Mentally and physically I’ve trained off the simulator, for both real racing and iRacing. As for the driving side of it, I’ve kept racing with my teammates in endurance events with the HPD ARX 01c and Corvette C7 Daytona Prototype. I’ve also put many hours into driving the MP4-30, to learn the ways of the car and to make sure that I’m comfortable in it.”

Martti Pietilä:
“Our team’s preparation has been very analytical, scientific even. Not just in-depth with the telemetry of VRS, but we’ve also improved the thought process on how we conduct testing.”

Roco Barone:
“I did a couple of race when the MP4-30 was released to start understanding the car. We have still room for improvement in all area’s, but mainly it’s a matter of pushing and finding the limit with the car and each track combination.”

Martin Krönke:
“I sort of know what the car is doing and have a good feeling with it. I’ve unlearned some bad habits, too, driving-wise. After that, my main focus has been making the car faster and understand how it works in terms of the setup.”

What’s your verdict on the McLaren MP4-30?
André Bötcher:
“After many years with the FW31, the MP4-30 will shake up the order, which should be fun. There’s also the MGU-K and the DRS, which I don’t per se like as they feel artificial, but it will definitely add lots of action.”

Hugo Luis Calmon:
“The Williams was a lot more planted on the road, but I definitely like the way the McLaren handles. It’s how I like to drive a car.”

“Like the Williams, the McLaren is difficult to drive, but least it’s more predictive. When it’s on the verge of spinning out, it announces that and it leaves you a little bit more time to let you react. It’s also a lot more stable on the curbs.”

“The car feels great. Managing the ERS, the fuel and the tyres is going to be crucial. Finally we have a modern Formula One car in iRacing, and I’m sure it’ll result in great racing.”

“The car is great! The more I drive it, the more enjoyable it becomes. I feel that it suits my driving style better than the FW31, so I’m very excited to start racing it.”

“The McLaren’s needs so much precision, you really need to drive it within a millimeter. And because it has so much power yet little downforce, many tracks give you new corners. For instance COTA is a completely new experience.”

What are your personal goals for the upcoming season?
“I’m aiming to be in top ten at the end of the season — anything less than top ten finish is something I don’t want to do.”

“As soon as I’m able to join the races, I’ll be aiming to score points and be helping my teammates where I can.”

“It’ll be hard with all the new drivers, and the new car, but I definitely want to finish in the top ten again, at least.”

“As a team, if we’re not on the podium, we’ll have to figure out stuff for the next race. For myself: I want to go one position further than I did last year.”

“I’ll be racing part-time due to real racing, but with that said: my goals are to score podiums and wins.”

The first race will start on Saturday, February 27th at 14:00 GMT (9AM ET), and will run over 71 laps at ‘Autódromo José Carlos Pace’, also known as Interlagos. Via this link you can view the live broadcast on iRacing Live, with coverage by RaceSpot TV.