x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Charles Pic is confident in his own ability

While Marussia's rookie is tipped for big things, Frenchman says he still has much to learn, but is his car holding him back, writes John McAuley .

Charles Pic, left, has risen quickly through the ranks but his future with the Marussia team is still uncertain. Jung Yeon-Je / AFP
Charles Pic, left, has risen quickly through the ranks but his future with the Marussia team is still uncertain. Jung Yeon-Je / AFP

Tucked away on the very end of the paddock at Yas Marina Circuit, a withdrawn Charles Pic can be found relaxing in the Marussia team's hospitality.

Being at the back of the pack is a theme the Formula One rookie has become all too familiar with during his first year on the grid, not that there is much he can do about.

Pic apparently has pedigree; it is the tools at his disposal that have guaranteed his best finish this year, simply considering results, was 15th at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix or June's chase around the streets of Valencia in Spain.

Competent drives in Germany, Hungary and last week's Indian Grand Prix - 19th at the Buddh International Circuit the highlight - have hinted at the 22-year-old Frenchman's talents, yet there is a strong feeling within the sport that racing for perennial backmarkers has not validated his ability.

Maintaining motivation should be difficult. According to Pic, it is not.

"Our target is always the same: to be able to get 100 per cent out of your car," he said. "And this doesn't change if you have a car that is able to make pole or one that qualifies only in [position] 20.

"Our target is to get everything out of the car. That does not change. I find motivation in that."

Confidence in his early promise would have certainly been enhanced by a standout 2011 in the GP2 Series, when he claimed two victories and climbed the podium five times.

Undoubtedly, it was augmented by a successful negotiation of the Young Drivers' Test last November in Abu Dhabi, a ride that secured his race seat.

A season of struggle, however, could easily foster suspicion that Pic is not destined to replace Alain Prost as the most recent Frenchman to win a world title.

"No, I don't see things like that," he said. "At the end of the day it is important for me to do everything right and get the maximum out of the car.

"Of course, we cannot compete with Red Bull. But we have to find our target for what we have and be as close on the grid to the teams we are fighting against. That's it."

Pic hails from Montelimar, in the Rhone-Alps region, and his fresh features and moptop hairstyle ensure he seems more One Direction than Formula One. He could be an easy choice for any of the teams seeking drivers next season - his future at Marussia remains uncertain and the source of much conjecture - although the resolutely reticent racer's disposition perhaps discourages sponsor-hungry marques.

Pic, though, says he is still growing familiar with the noticeable transition from GP2, F1's trusted feeder series, to the very pinnacle of motorsport.

"When I arrived in F1 everything was new to me," he said. "So I had to discover all these things and work on everything, from the car, which with all the tools is completely different to a GP2 car, to the team itself.

"It doesn't work the same way as I was used to. In GP2 you have 20 people, but in F1 you have a few hundred. And also the media part: before it was very small and now it is much, much bigger."

Pic finds comfort in the minds of Eric Bernard and Olivier Panis. The former F1 drivers have guided their young compatriot through his formative years in the sport. Bernard, also his godfather, bought the 12-year-old Pic a go-kart before helping him excel in karting championships in his homeland and in Italy.

Panis, the winner of the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix and a veteran of more than 150 races, now manages Pic on behalf of the Lagardere group having noticed his obvious skills following last year's prolific stint in GP2 with the Addax Team.

Pic's progression has been swift and steep. Nine months into his F1 career, he is adamant - as steadfast as this timid tyro can get - that there is much more to come.

"You cannot learn everything in one year," he said. "I still have plenty to learn and I'm working really hard to learn them as quickly as possible. I have to keep my mind open.

"For sure, I have some pressure - every time I compete I have it. But the most important thing is to be able to turn it in a positive way and ensure the pressure is not making you weaker, but stronger.

"What is hard is that every time it's a new situation. It is not like you learn something and then it is always like that. Every race is different and that's the reason why it takes so long to discover everything."

Pic, an "OK" tennis player and a frequent watcher of "no special type of movie", is nowhere near as charismatic as Sebastian Vettel, the world champion racing at Red Bull, or as forthright as Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, but he shares similar ambitions.

"I want to win," he said. "That is what all drivers want. But there is time for everything - you cannot arrive at what you want straight away. You have to learn and progress.

"Everybody is different and everybody else finds points they need to develop. I first try and focus on myself and those points that I have to improve.

"To be good, Formula One has to be your main thinking. My best moments, I live them in racing."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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