British F1 hopeful Zak O’Sullivan explained that he looked to experience the unique demands of Pirelli tyres on a race run as he sent his Williams for a spin in Abu Dhabi.
The 18-year-old Williams Academy driver, who is stepping up to Formula 2 next season, completed a session of young driver running for the team at Yas Marina on Tuesday, completing 50 laps in the process.
Following on from his run in FP1 on Friday at the same circuit, O’Sullivan looked to push the limits of the car on a race run, but found that Pirelli F1 tyres degrade in a different way to what he is used to in junior categories.
Zak O’Sullivan enjoys F1 opportunity as he gears up for step up to F2 in 2024
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher
The teenager was the winner of the 2021 edition of the prestigious Autosport BRDC Award for up-and-coming British talent – an award with previous winners such as David Coulthard, Jenson Button, George Russell and Lando Norris.
As he gears up to hopefully move up to Formula 1 eventually himself, he had a chance to learn the craft over the Abu Dhabi weekend, but took it slightly too far on Tuesday.
“It was on the race run, just pushing a bit too hard,” O’Sullivan told media including PlanetF1.com of his spin after his day behind the wheel.
“But yeah, got back going afterwards and into the run. I think for me, I just wanted to, especially on the race run, push as hard as I could see to what the degradation is like, and then manage from there.”
One area in which Williams has stood out on the grid in recent years has been its steering wheel design, being an outlier in opting to mount its digital display to the cockpit rather than on the wheel itself.
That will be changing next season as the team move more in line with their rivals in that area, but the teenager explained moving the wheel in front of the screen should not have been much of a distraction in the first place.
“As a driver, I’d hope you know which gear you’re in!” O’Sullivan said in response to a question from PlanetF1.com about the change of wheel design on the Williams.
“So I’ll be honest, it hasn’t really been an issue. I can see the dash wheel one too, I can’t say whether I’ll miss it or not.
“Obviously in the sim, I’ll be using the new wheel I guess early next year to get a feel for it.”
After his FP1 run on Friday, having more of an opportunity to get laps under his belt has given O’Sullivan an extended chance to show what he can do in Formula 1 machinery.
Suffice to say, he had a good time behind the wheel.
“Enjoyable I think first and foremost,” he said summing up his day.
“Of course, for me, it was good to have the reference from FP1, so I had a few areas to work on from there.
“So from the first push lap, I could pretty much match the pace I was doing there, which was nice.
“But it was good to get some proper representative running in also quite relevant conditions in the middle of the day, which was nice, and get through a good sweep of performance runs and race runs at the end as well.
“Performance runs were fun. It’s a bit tricky as it was quite hot today, I think a bit hotter than the race weekend, so especially on the C5 tyre it was hard to manage the overheating. But yeah, very enjoyable.”