Brazilian Felipe Nasr will get his first taste of Formula One action for real when he makes his debut for a revitalised Sauber team at the Australian Grand Prix this weekend.
Nasr impressed as Sauber showed encouraging speed and reliability in pre-season testing, going fastest on the second day of the first test in Jerez and completing a mammoth 159-lap session on his last day of testing in Barcelona before heading to Melbourne.
“I wouldn’t say I am surprised. I would say I am a lot more confident considering the position of the team last year,” the 22-year-old told AFP.
The Swiss team endured a horror 2014 as they failed to register a single point in 19 races.
“This year’s position seems a lot stronger. It gives a lot of confidence to the team and the drivers.
“It is good that we are able to push the car forward and improve in many areas, but there is still room for improvement.
“The main goal is clear. Myself together with the team, we want to be back in the points as soon as possible.”
Nasr is only one of a host of talented newcomers to the top level of motor sport alongside 17-year-old Dutch sensation Max Verstappen, his Toro Rosso teammate Spaniard Carlos Sainz Junior and Britain’s Will Stevens in the revived Manor.
He also joins Felipe Massa as the second Brazilian on the grid, but it is from another of his compatriots that he has drawn inspiration to forge a career in Formula One.
“I liked Ayrton Senna the most,” he said of the three-time world champion, who died tragically during the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994.
“Being Brazilian I learned so many things about him as a driver as a person on and off the track, so many videos, documentaries, I enjoyed watching him. I would put him as my idol.”
Like his hero Senna, Nasr made his mark by winning the British Formula Three championship in 2011 before driving in the GP2 series for the last three years.
However, he recognises he has had to work hard on both his physical and mental preparation for the step up to F1.
“Since I got the news I would be coming to Formula One I have been working a lot harder on the physical side and on the mental side.
“If I look back now I don’t know if GP2 was the certain step to do it, but I also think I learned a lot in GP2 as you use the same tyres, the same circuits and the car is quite close to a F1 car.”
After a promising winter, the real test of what Sauber and Nasr are capable of will be put the test in Melbourne.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE