“I really think that would have been me winning on Sunday…”

11/07/2018 Posted in: Racing, Formula 2

I could have had a reverse grid pole and a win in my home round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship supporting the British Grand Prix, but unfortunately my mid-season lack of luck struck again at Silverstone.

We’ve had good pace recently despite the disappointing results, and in free practice on Friday I was fifth in my ART Grand Prix car. That was pretty promising, and representative of where we were I’d say. The car felt quite good again, and we only had to do a few small tweaks.

In qualifying it all went wrong, and I would only line up 12th for the first race. On my first set of tyres my run was interrupted a bit by a red flag. But still I wasn’t looking too bad and was feeling confident going into the second set. We really only had one push lap to do the time before they were past their best, but I had a lock-up at Turn 4, so I had to abort the lap and do two cool-down laps before trying again. By then the tyres weren’t giving the same grip – I did what I could but I ended up well down, and very frustrated.

It’s not easy to overtake at Silverstone, and we knew the track would heavily favour only one strategy, to go for the softer option tyres and then the harder primes. And if you can’t do something different on strategy, that makes it much more difficult. But we felt we had the pace advantage to make up some places. As it turned out the race went well, and my only mistake was to get stuck behind Nicholas Latifi for too long after everyones stops. We had been strong on the Option but maybe pitted a tad early, then had a slow stop unfortunately, so lost the progress we had made. I concentrated on managing the tyres once behind Latifi, and I passed him and Maximilian Gunther near the end for eighth, and was getting onto the train that was battling for third. But I ran out of laps.

Of course, eighth gives you pole position for the reversed-grid race on Sunday, but that was denied me because of two separate five-second penalties that dropped me to 13th in the results. One was for a virtual safety car infringement. That’s very difficult to manage, and quite a few drivers got caught out. In my opinion the VSC is not a perfect system at the moment, because you have to leave a lot of margin. It was a hard one to take, especially because I didn’t gain any advantage, but rules are rules.

The other penalty was for speeding in the pits, and exactly the same thing happened to my team-mate George Russell. We as a team felt quite hard done by. Looking at the data, it was quite clear that it was a fault with the pit-lane speed limiter. We calibrated it well, and went through the pit lane at 60kph. George and I were in the last pit box, so when the limiter malfunctioned and let us go over the limit as we left our box we were caught by the gun on pit exit. I still don’t know why the penalties weren’t overturned, and I don’t think they had the time to look at things properly because of all the other problems. It’s not really acceptable.

It was hard to see Gunther use pole to run away and win the sprint race on Sunday. With the rolling start, and with running in clean air making a huge difference, I really think that would have been me. The clean air is so important – as I saw on Saturday once I got past Latifi and my lap times improved by a second instantly. But on Sunday I had the opposite problem, which is that I was constantly in traffic.

I passed Tadasuke Makino early on, the pace was good and I got onto the guys in front, but because everyone in the train all had DRS no one could overtake each other. I tried to push and hope someone would make a mistake, but it didn’t work out and, because I’d pushed, my tyres suffered a bit at the end, so Makino came back past. I finished 12th, but pushing as I did was a case of nothing ventured nothing gained.

It’s a shame, because we had pretty good pace at Silverstone but didn’t have chance to show it. This has been a difficult period, but it’s just been a lot of small things. I’m learning a lot on tyres by racing in the pack, so what we have to do is go to the next round at the Hungaroring with the same mindset, make no mistakes, and it should be good!