Teenaged New Zealand driver Mitch Evans believes staying independent can help him achieve his Formula One dream.
Evans, fresh off winning the GP3 title, heads back to Europe next week for test drives in the GP2 cars he hopes to operate in next year.
They are one level below Formula One and getting a GP2 drive - and succeeding _ will be crucial to his long term future.
Rather than align himself to a Formula One stable, the 18-year-old is content to work his way up with his own management and backers, most of whom are New Zealanders led by motorsport enthusiast Sir Colin Giltrap.
"Being an individual can be beneficial long-term. I think strategically you're better on your own, getting results. Ultimately it will give you more options when you're knocking on the door of Formula One rather than being tied to one team," Evans said.
It's a theory Evans is keen to test though it comes with some major hurdles. The biggest is the $3m price-tag attached to securing a GP2 drive.
"It's all about funding and I'll come back after testing to get the budget."
Giltrap yesterday revealed that "we are about two-thirds of the way there" and he believed it was achievable "with a little bit of luck and the wind blowing the right way".
Giltrap said Frenchman Eric Boullier, the Lotus F1 team principal, was buying into the Evans package, not from a team perspective but as an individual. That was a reflection of the young Kiwi's abilities and potential.
"He's put money in just because he believes in Mitch. Most of the major teams have got their eye on Mitch already."
Giltrap said he was committed to helping young Kiwi drivers because of the drought of New Zealand success at F1 level where the country had such a rich history.
"You can either buy your way in or do it on talent," Giltrap said, believing Evans had the talent to offset the big budgets some budding South American drivers brought to the table.
"He is so good ... he's a point of difference."
Even at GP2 level Evans appears to be in demand. He will do his testing with Arden in Spain on October 30-31 and a month later on November 22-23.He raced under their banner with the Mark Webber team at GP3 level and they are a competitive GP2 outfit, finishing second this year. The top team, DAMS, are also trying to entice the Kiwi into their ranks and it will probably come down to who can deliver the best deal at the best price.
The advice of Webber, the Australian F1 ace who manages and mentors Evans, will be crucial and his Red Bull team connections could ultimately be influential.
For now, Evans has to concentrate on his pure driving skills. The looming tests will be crucial - and demanding.
The GP2 cars weigh the same as the GP2s but have four-litre V8 engines offering 612 horsepower with a top speed of around 330km/h, about 50km/h faster than the lower class.
But it's the physicality that comes with them.
"They can be brutal ... very physically demanding on your neck and arms. I'm going to be doing a lot of laps in testing but I've got no worries about my fitness," Evans said.
As the reigning GP2 champion, Evans has also been handed the honour of testing driving their new, faster cars that will be introduced next year. That will happen on October 22-23 in France.
"I'm looking forward to that. It's going to be great to be giving them feedback," Evans said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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