“The super-soft tyre made a difference to the balance, and not in a good way…”

05/10/2018 Posted in: Uncategorised

t was another difficult weekend in the Russian Grand Prix round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship. The Sochi track has its own unusual characteristics and I was able to battle in the leading group briefly in the Saturday feature race. But overall it was tough. Over the past few weekends we’ve struggled in some form or other with the car and that continued.

It was my first time at Sochi as it wasn’t on the GP3 calendar when I was racing in that series. It’s always challenging to learn a new track in just 45 minutes of Free Practice but I was able to get my eye in pretty quickly. We tried a couple of things on the set-up of the car because it was also the first time on the track for my ART Grand Prix team with the new F2 machine. I was seventh quickest in Free Practice, however, as a team we knew a couple of wrong choices had been made so felt that if we changed this, the car would be ready for me to achieve a better time.

Going into Qualifying, we felt we could fight for the top three and make a good impression. However, once we shifted onto the super-soft tyre, which was our option compound for the weekend, it made a difference to the balance of the car, and not in a good way. That’s something we’ve seen before – we’re not able to get the grip out of the car. I wasn’t happy with my first push lap, so we made quite a big change for the second run but by that stage it was difficult to recover. I ended up qualifying ninth, so I knew I was faced with a big task for Saturday’s race.

Having qualified lower than we hoped and with ongoing issues with the car’s set-up, it was decided that we should try something different and adopt an alternative strategy to most of my rivals. We therefore opted to start on the prime soft tyre and switch to the super-soft later in the race, whereas all those ahead of me on the grid would be starting on super-softs.

I got a good start and made up a lot of places. However, our strategy was dependent on being able to open a big enough gap to those who had started on option tyres so that when we pitted, we would come out ahead. However, as soon as we tried to really step up the pace, my tyres started to drop off quite badly, and I had to carry them quite far into the race.

We just couldn’t get the tyres into the right window, and however much I adjust my driving style it doesn’t seem to be working. So we lost a lot of time and, by the time I pitted onto the super-softs, we were well back and headed for 14th place at the finish.

I haven’t felt comfortable with the set-up of the car for a long time no matter what we have tried, so after the disappointment of Saturday, we felt the only way forward was to make an even big change for Sunday’s race. I pushed hard for the first few laps and made up some positions, getting up to 12th from 14th on the grid, but after that our true pace came out and it was clear our drastic changes hadn’t come off.

When it started to rain, I viewed it as my chance to move forward and, for a while, I was the fastest on the track in those conditions. However, in pushing so hard, I overstepped the mark. I put a wheel on the Astroturf, there was an instant spin, and I didn’t get the clutch in quickly enough, so that was the end of our race.

It’s tough because now I’ve got a long wait until the final round supporting the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the end of November. Ideally, there would have been another race much sooner at which could try and put things right. I should hopefully be doing some driving before then, but in the meantime we’ve got to get our heads down and try to finish the season on a high.