We catch up with ART Grand Prix’s Team Manager Sébastien Philippe to discuss yet another winning season for the French squad…
(Interview conducted ahead of season finale…)
Firstly, congratulations on another very impressive year for ART GP. Can you sum up your overall thoughts of the 2016 GP3 season?
Sébastien Philippe: Firstly we are very happy for many reasons: even though we had a very good line-up, all four drivers were rookies to the Series. It’s not always easy to start a season with drivers who are new to GP3. Also, I had a lot of changes with my staff, so we’ve brought in a lot of new engineers and mechanics. I would say we started the year having 50% new staff within the team. I was a bit worried at the beginning to see how all of the engineers and mechanics would manage and of course the four new drivers. But everyone pushed each other and it turned out really good.
Charles Leclerc and Alex Albon have been fighting against each other all season long for the prestigious GP3 crown. What would you say are Charles and Alex’s respective strengths and weaknesses?
Sébastien: I would prefer to keep this a secret to respect them! Like all drivers they have good things and areas they need to improve on for the future, but I would prefer not to tell you their weak points. They have both been working hard and improving a lot during this season. They both have a lot of talent and both deserving of being Champion. I would also include Nyck (De Vries) in that category because he has had some technical issues and bad moments this season. But they all they deserve success due to their work ethic this year and their talent.
You were one of only a few teams to run with 4 cars, do you think that was a help to you and in what way was it? Were they any difficulties with operating four cars?
Sébastien: There are some good points in having four drivers. One of the main ones is that you have more data; so to improve the car, compare set-ups, you have more opportunities to work with. Logistically, within organising everything, it’s easy to make mistakes, so you need to find a good balance. But at the end of the day, I’m very happy to have run with four cars. We all had the opportunity to do it. When everything is organised, it can be an advantage; especially when you have four talented drivers.
We’re not sure you will tell us…but what is the secret to ART’s success? You’ve won six out of seven GP3 teams’ titles. What makes your team stronger than your rivals?
Sébastien: It’s difficult to say honestly. ART has been strong for many, many years. We’ve found a good way to build up the engineering side which is working well for us. The engineers all work with the same philosophy. We also have good data as we’ve had some very strong drivers in GP3 since the beginning of our time in the category. Year by year this helps for sure. It’s difficult to explain why you dominate something sometimes, like how it is also difficult to explain why you don’t win. I prefer this case, obviously!
I think it’s a very good team with a chief mechanic who has been with us for a very long time, doing everything perfectly with reliable cars. We have some engineers with experience and others new, with fresh ideas. I think all of this combined with the fact that we were with GP3 since its inception in 2010 helps us a lot. I hope we continue like this. I’m already quite happy with what we have built up for the 2017 season and I think we will be strong again. I don’t know if the other teams need to worry about us but I feel positive as we have stability within the staff and some good drivers. We will have a good package next year too.