Abbi Pulling topped the timings sheets during the three days of pre-season testing in Jeddah, but the Alpine driver isn’t getting ahead of herself as she searches for success in the opening round.

The longer the wait for racing, the sweeter the return has been for Pulling. Speaking ahead of Round 1, the Alpine driver has been raring to get back in action, even more so after sampling the Saudi Arabian circuit last month.

“It's been a been a long time since I've been racing and I've only just started getting back out in the car, so it's been a long-awaited couple of months,” said Pulling. “We tested here a few weeks ago and I just can't wait to race on this track, it's so much fun.

“We did a little Safety Car practice procedure at the test and we had a one-lap dash race and that was, I think, the most fun that I've had since Austin. Safe to say that I'm very glad to get racing.”

Despite being almost 3000 miles from the UK, Pulling says she’s right at home around the street circuit. Her performance in testing shows that, with her clocking in a 2:04.990 during Day 2’s evening session to lead McLaren’s Bianca Bustamante by three thousandths.

Noting the similarities between the Jeddah Corniche Circuit and the tracks she’s driven on growing up, Pulling acknowledges that there is a lot for the drivers to balance. However, she believes the biggest adaptation will be technical as they switch from Qualifying under the floodlights to racing in the afternoon sunshine.

“This track is right up my street, if anyone knows me, they know a lot is going on in my head at all times, so it kind of suits,” she said. “It’s really, really fast, tight, flowing. Growing up on British circuits, there's no room for error and that's exactly the same on all the street circuits this year, but specifically this one (...) It suits me to a T and just can’t wait to attack it and show everyone that I like this track.

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Pulling added: “The lights are different, the sun is in a different place, the shadows are in a different place. Your references can change and things visually can look very different, so it’s also about getting a solid marker rather than something that moves and a light that may be not on at the time but is on for Practice may skew things.”

Crucially, she knows the need to be consistent from the get-go, with the demands of the new Qualifying format requiring drivers to perform well twice to set the grid for each race. Well-versed with the format, thanks to her British F4 experience, Pulling says there are a ‘plethora of factors’ involved, including weighing up how to best utilise the three sets of tyres available.

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“I absolutely love the new format,” Pulling said. “That’s what I entered single seaters doing, so I’m fairly familiar with it. I’m quite a consistent driver so I’m actually quite happy with the new format. I think it’s again something that hopefully suits me.

“There’s a really big discussion within the team whether to use two sets of tyres or not. You have enough time to change tyres, but with having to come back in and out of the pits and to bleed the pressures, it then makes that 30 minutes much, much shorter. We will only actually get two or three push laps potentially and Red Flags etc, that’s all a factor to consider.”

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After finishing fifth in the Drivers’ Standings last season, Pulling’s approach to the first round of her sophomore campaign is to play the long game. Right at the start of the 14-race season, she’s focusing on the enjoyment to extract strong results.

“It feels a lot calmer,” she noted. “I've put a big focus on taking the weight off my own shoulders, putting less pressure on myself, and going into this year feeling weightless - no expectation, just drive. Get on with it, do the job and be consistent. I think that's the expectation as opposed to ‘oh I want to win; I want to do that’. Just be consistent and I think that's what wins titles at the end of the day.

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“My motivation is enjoying myself! I think that’s a really important thing and when I’m enjoying myself and having fun, I drive my best. Obviously, I want to get results but it’s about how you go about getting them.”

Pulling added: “Coming away from testing, I was the fastest, but at the end of the day that means nothing. It’s a new weekend, anything can happen, motorsport is unpredictable. I think when you say to yourself as fastest you should be on pole, you’re putting more pressure on your shoulders and expectation, and then you make more mistakes. So, I’m just focusing on driving with the feeling, driving to the limit and doing the job’.”