King ready for next step after stunning GP2 test

Jordan King proved that he is more than ready to take the next step in his burgeoning single-seater career with a scintillating GP2 Series testing performance that saw him outpace a whole host of infinitely more experienced rivals.

After concluding his sophomore FIA Formula 3 European Championship campaign with Carlin ranked an excellent seventh out of 30 supremely high-calibre contenders, the talented young Warwickshire ace switched his focus immediately to 2015. Weighing up graduation to either Formula Renault 3.5 or the Formula 1-supporting GP2 Series, he wasted little time in lining up try-outs in both.

The first came with British outfit Arden Motorsport at Jerez in southern Spain, where amongst almost 20 competitors – a blend of FR3.5 regulars and fresh-faced newcomers like himself – King featured consistently up at the sharp end, winding up inside the top seven in three of the four sessions, scarcely half-a-second adrift of the pace at the former European Grand Prix venue.

The highly-rated Stoneleigh-based hotshot – who was recently appointed to the prestigious FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy – went on to confirm his palpable promise with an even more eye-catching test in GP2 around Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.

King spent two days with Arden International and another with MP Motorsport – for whom he had raced in Formula Renault in 2012 – in a 26-strong field that was similarly composed of seasoned campaigners and series rookies. Falling firmly into the latter category, the 20-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar, MSA Team UK protégé and erstwhile McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC Award finalist was impressive indeed.

Completing just short of 150 laps – equivalent to nearly three Abu Dhabi GPs – King betrayed no physical fatigue and finished five of the six sessions ensconced well inside the top six on the timesheets. Twice, he lapped a superb second-fastest and in another session he placed third, outperforming drivers backed by F1 powerhouses Ferrari, Red Bull and Lotus and working his way down to barely a tenth-of-a-second shy of the outright benchmark.

Having turned heads the entire length of the pit-lane, the 2013 British F3 Champion and Hugo Boss brand ambassador is now keeping his options open and speaking to a number of teams as he carefully assesses his next move.

“Both tests were very positive and productive,” he reflected. “I didn’t really have any prior expectations; I simply wanted to challenge myself and push the cars to the limit, and Arden and MP are extremely professional teams, which enabled me to take everything in my stride.

“I got plenty of track time in FR3.5, which helped me to gain a really good understanding of the car and I learned a lot, from its high-downforce nature to the carbon brakes and DRS. It’s particularly remarkable through the high-speed stuff due to the grip levels generated by the downforce – I was pulling in excess of 3.5G through some corners!

“I was driving within myself and set some very competitive laps, so speed-wise, there was no cause for concern. We were there-or-thereabouts and in the ballpark, and we made good progress throughout. I also did a full race simulation, and physically there were no issues. Overall, I came away from Jerez feeling very comfortable and confident that the step-up from F3 to FR3.5 would be more than manageable – it wasn’t a massive jump in any respect.

“All of that said, I definitely preferred GP2; I would describe it as more of a pure racing car – very natural and instinctive, which makes it tremendously rewarding – and I enjoyed driving it a lot. I took to it straightaway and we were quick from the word ‘go’.

“I knew many of the MP guys already from back in my Formula Renault days, and like Arden, they gave me an excellent car that I was able to fully exploit. It was really beneficial to see how two different teams operate at this level, and being fast with both of them was hugely encouraging and certainly won’t have done my reputation within the GP2 paddock any harm!

“I would say I’m pretty set on GP2 now; not only do I like the car more than FR3.5, but being on the F1 support package means it’s easier to sell to sponsors, too. It has first-rate television coverage and hospitality, and it runs on Pirelli tyres and will have DRS next year – it generally just ticks all the right boxes.

“Both Arden and MP have a strong pedigree and record of success within the sport and both clearly have plenty of potential, but it’s important to stress that they’re not the only teams I’m considering. The target is to get a deal in-place before Christmas. If we can do that, then we can really hit the ground running at the start of the New Year.”