Charouz Racing System’s Enzo Fittipaldi was left to rue what might have been in Le Castellet after a torrid round for the Brazilian. His Qualifying was over early on after an issue kept him in the pitlane, setting his weekend back from the off.
From that point on, Fittipaldi was in recovery mode and a DNF in the Sprint Race put even more pressure on his performance in the Feature Race. A drive to finish P10 on the grid having started P19 was a decent recovery job, but he was far from happy with his weekend’s efforts.
Reflecting on his race into the points-paying positions, Fittipaldi insisted that 10th was a disappointment rather than a deserved reward for the comeback drive.
“I’m just disappointed because there was a lot more performance. We had a lot more pace but just got stuck behind some drivers. Luckily, we were able to get by them at the end, and finish inside the top 10. But we lost so much time behind them which is unfortunate because I think we would have finished in the top eight.
“Paul Ricard should have been another very good week and we had extremely strong pace in Qualifying. We were fighting for a top five and then I had an engine issue and that was it, so we finished Qualifying in 14th.
“Yesterday we had very good pace but had an incident with Merhi, a five-place grid penalty for the Feature Race. I started 19th and I was able to come up with one point which should have been a much stronger weekend. We were very fast here. We're for sure on the pace of the top five and Qualifying."
One highlight the Charouz driver did enjoy was the overtake on PREMA Racing’s Dennis Hauger. The duo engaged in a nose-to-tail scrap but the Brazilian’s lighter touch with the tyres put him in a position to take the fight to Hauger.
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With a strong exit out of Turn 7 and with a DRS-assisted tow, Fittipaldi closed on Hauger at the chicane on the Mistral Straight, out-braked the Norwegian and seized the position, but it was a battle that proved to be costly anyway for the Charouz driver.
“It was a good overtake. But I really had to go for it and dial it up and just went for it. I got the overtake and braked extremely late and got through on him and when we passed him, we just pulled away. We were just stuck behind, they were just so much slower.”
After clearing Hauger, Fittipaldi held onto his tyres for the remainder of the race and made great use of them to climb up into the points. An early pit stop earned him an undercut on several drivers ahead, despite the aggressiveness of the strategy.
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Swapping the hard compound for the soft tyres for the majority of the race was made possible by Fittipaldi’s driving, nursing his tyres to the end and extracting just enough performance each lap to break into the top 10.
“We started on hards and as soon as the window opened, we wanted to go to the soft. It was a risky strategy, but it ended up paying off at the end should have paid off more. I was quite surprised with our performance on the softs this weekend and we did a lot of laps on the soft, it was all about tyre management. I think I did like 23 laps on the soft so at the end it was a bit difficult, but it paid off. My secret is being smart about it, being gentle and not making mistakes.”
Focus quickly shifts to Budapest and the final race weekend prior to the summer break. It’s a venue which holds positive memories for Fittipaldi. He scored points across both races there last season in Formula 3, including a P2 finish in the Feature Race.
Any form of repeat this weekend will be a great note to end the first half of the campaign on, and should move him back into the hunt of a top five finishing position in his maiden F2 season in the Drivers’ Championship.
“Hopefully we'll have a cleaner weekend in Budapest with those technical issues and then you're moving for. Budapest is a track I enjoy. I’m looking to Qualifying. I think we're very fast now in Qualifying and how we are now here in Paul Ricard, we're really fast and we’re aiming to do the same in Budapest.”