Formula 2: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press conference for today’s sprint race here in Bahrain: joining us are race winner Charles Leclerc from PREMA Racing, in second we have Luca Ghiotto from RUSSIAN TIME, and in third we have Oliver Rowland from DAMS. Charles, a great race after falling to 14th for a pitstop before fighting all the way back for a fine win: how does it feel?
Charles Leclerc: It was an unbelievable race! At the start we were still hesitating between Plan A and Plan B, with Plan B being the pitstop, and after some laps I found myself in P2 and decided to call for Plan B and push, because the degradation was already hard at the beginning. So I began to push and I could stay at a good pace for a long time on the prime, we stopped at the right time on the lap we wanted to stop and went on the option, and to be honest until the last 4 laps I didn’t believe we could catch up until Luca and Oliver started to fight for quite a long time, and we managed to win. I have to thank my engineer for a great car and a great strategy: it has been good!
Formula 2: You talked yesterday about needing to learn from the experience: how much of that went into this result today?
Charles: Definitely we looked at the data yesterday and saw some things were wrong on my part that I had to improve, and today I think I’ve made them right: we still need to check, nothing is perfect so we still need to work hard, but definitely it was better than yesterday, and it’s great to finish with this result.
Formula 2: You’ve had a great debut weekend: how important is this result?
Charles: I’m conscious that the others will improve as well, it’s only one race and we need to keep working and we’ll see in Barcelona.
Formula 2: Great job today. Luca, you were on the opposite strategy and had a number of battles, but how was it to manage the tyres today?
Luca Ghiotto: After Charles overtook me [earlier] I understood that he was on the opposite strategy but we stayed with our original plan, and to finish like that. With one lap to go I thought maybe it would be fine, but obviously there’s a big difference between used and new tyres, especially when you change it halfway through the race with low fuel, so the degradation is low. Of course you never know how fast the guys who stopped will arrive, and with 2 laps to go I had no idea that Charles was coming so quickly! In a way it’s a little win for us because we were the first on let’s say the A Strategy, but there’s nothing more we could do to win: the only thing was to be on the other strategy but we made the wrong choice, so that’s it.
Formula 2: Nevertheless as Charles said there’s a lot to learn, so can you take a lot away from this race?
Luca: Yeah. Of course I was frustrated yesterday, to see my teammate win and I finished 7th is never a good feeling, but I studied his data yesterday evening and I learnt quite a lot, and I also was a bit unlucky [yesterday] dropping to 6th or 7th, which kind of ruined my race. Today we had a really good start, which was the key, and I tried my best and learnt a lot, but I think we just have to try to stay up at the front, because we are picking up experience, and now I just have to push.
Formula 2: How was the battle between you and Oliver, on pretty worn tyres?
Luca: I think it’s pretty fun to fight in a car with more than 600hp with no tyres left! Of course Oliver pushed a bit more earlier in the race and I saved a bit more, so he went one side and I went the other and it worked out, except for Charles of course! But it was a lot of fun.
Formula 2: Oliver, how was it from your seat?
Oliver Rowland: I didn’t have a fantastic start so I was down to 6th, and as Luca said you’ve got to balance whether you push at the start, the middle or the end. I had to do quite a lot of overtaking in the first few laps, which I think damaged my tyres a bit, but the battle at the end was quite easy pickings for him because I’d already lost the life on the tyres. Also I kind of didn’t want to fight too much because I was hoping that Charles wouldn’t get to close, but in the end it was kind of inevitable.
Formula 2: How was the start, and what happened with Nato?
Oliver: At the start I think the inside is pretty slippery, and when I launched I got wheelspin and fell back to 6th, so when you’re in it you’re in trouble. I went inside into turn 4 and he tried to go all the way round the outside, and when he came back on track he was within a millimetre of my wing and I think it must have just cut his tyre, so it’s a pretty unfortunate accident for him but that’s part of racing, I suppose.
Formula 2: How do you think the championship is shaping up for this year after this event?
Oliver: Yeah, it’s interesting: I was hoping that the guys who came from GP3 wouldn’t be as strong in the first week, but we had some issues in qualifying and I’ve been trying to resolve them all week, but that race was a good step in the right direction, and with a strong team like DAMS, so I’m hoping we can fight for the championship.
Formula 2: And back to you Charles, what confidence does this give you for the season?
Charles: None! [laughs] It’s good to be on top, but as I said it’s a long way to go and Bahrain is a really particular circuit: the strategy worked out for us today, but we will see. We just need to continue to work and to improve, and we will see at the second race.