“It was a tough weekend but we have to take encouragement from our pace…”

26/06/2018 Posted in: Racing

It was a tough weekend for me in the FIA Formula 2 Championship at Paul Ricard, but we have to take encouragement from our pace and the fact that we should be able to pick up our momentum again for the rest of the season this week.

We were confident going into the event. ART Grand Prix had a good feel of set-up from the pre-season test, and our confidence was played out. In the practice session we had one or two small issues, but our underlying pace was quite good at eighth in the timesheets.

In qualifying I was sixth, but it was a little bit of a struggle. The F2 organisation brought some new software on a number of fronts for the engines for this event, and one of them was not exactly as we expected. As a result I was losing a fair amount down the straights, and it wasn’t just me who was affected. I should have been half the gap I was from pole position, although on my side I made a couple of small errors. That’s something I’m trying to work on, but starting sixth was definitely a place I could fight from.

There was rain threatening at the start of the race so we made the decision to go for the harder medium Pirelli tyres and go longer into the race than those who started on super-softs – that gives you a little bit more flexibility if it does start to rain. However in hindsight, we were the only ones on medium in the top seven, and this in itself was a risk we shouldn’t have taken. When it came to the race, it was raining a bit for the first few laps. I made up some ground and had some good pace, as in those conditions I normally feel pretty strong. It was encouraging to make a good start after my problems this season, and I got a good run on Louis Deletraz a few laps into the race and took fourth place from him around the outside into Turn 1.

But then it started to rain harder and that really affected those of us on the medium tyres. I lost all temperature in the tyres, and I began losing ground. Then there was a breakdown in communication between myself and the team – I thought the rain would stick around a bit longer, and as we were losing a lot of time to the super-soft runners I pitted for wets, only for it to dry out again soon after. That cost us a lot of time, and from that point on I was never going to catch the guys in front because I had to pit again – back onto the mediums we had just gotten rid of!

I decided to drive flat out as we had nothing to lose, and hope the tyres would hold on, but the tyre wear was quite high and it got more and more difficult. I was actually up to 10th only to be passed on the last lap after defending with ruined tyres for two laps.

The Sunday race was gutting. I was trying to do some burnouts on the formation lap, and we always try to do one into the last corner. I didn’t have enough space but I tried to do it anyway, and as soon as I dropped the clutch the back end came around and there was no way I could save it. It was a bit of brainfade and I was absolutely devastated, so there’s nothing to do but say sorry to the team and move onto next week’s round at the Red Bull Ring – thankfully there’s not a long time to wait!

I’ve had good form there in Formula Renault and GP3, so I’m confident of some good results. This weekend my start was good in race one, we had good pace in the race, and we know what we have to work on. It’s just that it was a weekend where not everything went our way.