Following his first tests with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, Max Chilton is on steady ground heading into the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Chilton, 24, makes the step up to the Verizon IndyCar Series after competing in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires for Carlin in 2015, following two seasons driving in Formula One driving for Marussia.
Chilton completed his first test Feb. 10 in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on the road course at Sonoma Raceway alongside new teammates Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball. The Brit found the experience of driving a Dallara DW-12 different from anything that he has raced before and was astounded by the amount of downforce produced with the Chevy aero kit.
“It's an amazing bit of kit,” Chilton said. “I knew they always had an amazing amount of downforce. They perform well in the corners. They performed better in the corners, better than I expected.
“The test went well,” he added. “I got up to speed pretty quickly. In the afternoon, we concentrated on not doing a full race distance but we did fuel stints, you know, 25 laps at a time. It was good to sort of see how the tires wore down throughout the run.
“It's very much what I'm used to in F1. The tire degradation is pretty high, but it's manageable as long as you drive sensibly, control the wheel spin, you can find ways of extending the life of the tire.”
Chilton also got his first taste of driving an Indy car on a superspeedway oval in a rookie test Feb. 13 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. He admitted he still has much to learn.
“In the first run, ovals, I don't think you can ever really feel comfortable on an oval,” Chilton said. “I know I got comfortable quite quickly. I'm sure that changes with other cars around you, especially at Fontana with the seams. I'm sure when you have to dip down halfway through a corner with other cars around, it becomes a lot more daunting. It was a good way for me to learn without other cars around and just built up to it as the day went down.”
Despite being new to the Verizon IndyCar Series, Chilton feels optimistic and grateful for being able to race for the Ganassi team that has collected 100 Indy car race wins and 11 season championships.
“I have to thank everyone at Chip Ganassi, including Chip, for giving me the opportunity,” he said. “I am a rookie. I know I've had experience in one of the highest categories in the world, but they're still taking a risk with me as I'm new to all of the ovals but a couple and also a lot of the street circuits.
“(Ganassi) is by far the best team on the grid,” he added. “It's great to start with a team where I've got the best opportunity. I've been in a car the last few years, especially in F1, where you can have the race of your life and you'd still finish in middle to the back of the pack. It's nice to know that, if you perform well, you have the car to give you the champagne at the end of the race.”