Q & A with Ryan Sharp

Ryan Sharp is back in his usual seat with DPR at the GP2 race weekend at Hockenheim after surprising a number of people with his appearance in the World Series by Renault championship last weekend at Bilbao.

Q & A with Ryan Sharp

With rumours circulating about his decision to race in the series, and his potential replacement in GP2, Sharp sets the record straight on the rationale behind the decision, his relationship with DPR, and his plans for the remainder of the racing season.

Q. So you were racing in Bilbao last weekend...

Ryan Sharp: "It came about because Jenzer Motorsport, who I drove for in 2003 and 2004 and get on with well and talk to a lot, contacted me Tuesday morning after Silverstone - [Patrick] Pilet wasn't going to be driving for them for the rest of the season, and they asked if I would step in and do the race. So I spoke to Norco, my sponsor, and they said okay - find out how much. I got the price and they were willing to pay it, so I phoned Dave [Price - DPR team boss] because with the contract I have with him I've got to ask him for a yes or no [to race elsewhere] - and he said yes.

"So I went to Bilbao, and it was meant to be two 45 minute tests, two half hour qualies, and two races - it turned out I got four laps of testing because they shortened it from 45 minutes to 20 minutes, and then we got red flags - one time we went out of the pits and we got a red flag, and we never got to go back out again because the time kept ticking down, and it took them more than 20 minutes to clear the cars.

"So I did that - it was alright, it was good - and I was 2.5 seconds off pole in the first qualy and then a second off pole in the second one, and I was closer again on pace in both races - I was running at the same pace at [Robert] Kubica, [Tristan] Gommendy, [Enrico] Toccacelo and [Christian] Montanari was there with a bunch - in fact three of them spun off in front of me and I kept losing time there, but I managed to push back up - so I was reasonably happy with the progress I made."

Q. And you finished right behind [championship leader] Kubica in the second race, which was promising in your first round there.

Sharp: "Yeah - it was alright. I think if we'd had the two 45 minutes sessions I could have been right there, and I had a good feeling with the car. I didn't have the same engineer as I had before with Jenzer but it didn't matter - the time I had in the car was all me, none of it was in the car, and I was never at the limit. So that was that, and I got back home. Obviously we've been having ongoing talks with DPR, probably since the Nurburgring - they haven't been happy with my performance, and I haven't been happy with my performance. As a team we're contracted until the end of the season, and that's got to be the plan - to see it out.

"I was always coming here [to Hockenheim] this weekend - I know there were definitely rumours flying around, and that's why I wasn't answering my phone this week. I have to work hard - it's not just a case of we're going this weekend or no we're not going this weekend and that's it - the situation's got to be right, and I felt it's definitely right to be here and work towards the end of the season, and to make sure we're all through the year."

Q. Sure, and you've told me before that you have the budget to do the full year.

Sharp: "Yeah, we've got the money to do the full season - that's not a problem - in fact we got some extra funds to go and race last weekend. But we don't have the money to throw away or waste - it's too much money, and you've got to get value for the money. We were trying to get the most seat time last weekend to build my confidence, because my confidence has been knocked, and then to come here to a circuit that I know quite well and try and do a good job - it definitely wouldn't have been the best for me to sit at home after what happened at Silverstone. Weekends like Silverstone, happen, but it just seems that they happen too often.

"If we could turn around and point at somebody who was to blame then there would be a reason to walk out and leave, but there's nobody to blame - you can't blame GP2, you can't blame me, you can't blame the team, you can't blame anybody - it's just really frustrating for everybody. If it wasn't a professional team that wanted to win, and if I wasn't a professional driver that wanted to win, then we'd all be stood around with our arms around each other, but everybody wants to win and everybody gets frustrated - we've just got to turn that frustration around and make it a positive, go out there and hopefully get the results this weekend."

Q. You've had some brutal luck this year, particularly in Silverstone, and of course your teammate got a win there. How does that affect you?
 
Sharp:
"Well, even when you're having a bad weekend you want your team to do well, because it's a big boost for the team as a whole. They've had two weeks at home on a high, and I'm really glad that Olivier did win. Of course it does make it harder to explain - not to the sponsors who were there, because they saw what happened, but to the press and everyone back home when they see you P20 and your teammate P1. You can keep giving excuses, but it doesn't take long for them to stop believing you."

Q. I guess all you can do is take heart from Olivier's win, because it means that the team is capable of doing it.

Sharp: "Oh definitely. Hopefully we now go on and get some good results this weekend and then go on to Hungary and keep improving. I got asked last weekend if I'd be doing the rest of the year in World Series and was I finished, but I probably intend to do the next round there because it doesn't clash and they've got five hours of testing, and if these next two weekends don't go so well for me - even if I get points but I feel that I'm lacking something in seat time or whatever, then I'll go off and do that, and Norco and everybody has said that's not a problem. So after Hungary, if Dave says it's okay to go and do it and everyone else here is testing then why not go and drive, get the tests and the qualies and the races, and then come back."

Q. So in a way you're doubling up your programme now.

Sharp: "Yeah. Definitely I wouldn't have intended doing it that way, but it's a nice situation to be in that the people who back me, instead of pulling back the funds, have given me an even better opportunity to get things right. Definitely they're stressed - everyone is stressed - and that's why I've had a pretty tough week. But they haven't just committed for one more race - it's all hopefully smoothed over and sorted for the season."

Q. And the more seat time you get, the more confident you'll be.

Sharp: "Yeah. If I have two good weekends and am bang on it then I don't need to do the next World Series, because there's no point going there and risking it by doing badly, but I think it's important to try anything you can to move forward."

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Series FIA F2
Author David Cameron
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