Richard Verschoor certainly didn’t have to go back very far to find a race that he won’t be forgetting in a hurry. There are few drivers who can say they brought home their team’s first win in a Championship on their debut with them, but the Trident driver made history when he stormed to victory in the first Sprint Race of the 2022 Formula 2 season in Sakhir.
From finding his feet with his new team, a risky strategy paying off and learning from his previous mistakes, Verschoor gave us his take on the story behind his first win and why the struggles he’s faced along the way make the taste of success even sweeter.
“There were a lot of talks before the race because we were not sure what to do with the strategy. The team was very sure but I wasn’t,” Verschoor began. “It was quite a long meeting to decide what we were going to do. We went for the risky one, which a lot of people chose in the end.
“It worked out perfectly because we jumped Felipe Drugovich, who was starting P1, and then from there on, we led the race. The pace was actually really good. Also, I’d just started with Trident and I’d only just met everybody. I had no idea what to expect. To be honest, my expectations weren’t so high, then to win straight away in the first race was incredible and the team were very happy as well.
“I knew it was very important to take the lead at the first corner, I was focused on that. Whilst I was leading, I thought ‘let’s try to save my tyres as best I can’ and then when I saw that they couldn’t really catch me, I was very confident. The tyres can drop very, very quickly, we knew that from testing.
“At some point they started fighting behind me so I had a little gap. To be honest, I was quite comfortable, it wasn’t really a hard race for me. I had everything under control and as soon as they started catching me a tiny bit, I had the pace to go faster. It was quite a long race as well. I remember my engineer told me I had 12 laps to go and I thought I was nearly at the end - mentally that’s quite tough but it was worth it.
“It's my dream to win the Feature Race but I knew with it being a Sprint Race, it makes it a lot easier when you start on the front row because you qualified P9. So, it’s not the win I really, really want, but because of the journey I’d had before with finding sponsors and signing with the team while the budget was still a big issue. There was a lot of hard work that I had to put in upfront that made me feel much better than the win should have.
“I have about 18 partners - I wouldn’t say it’s pressure because they all want the best for me but they’re all watching and investing in you so you want to do well for them. Then immediately after you win one race, this pressure is kind of gone.
“Immediately afterwards we were in a very good flow, the team were extra motivated and I was too. I really couldn’t believe that I could actually win with the car I had. Its only gone upwards since, especially the week after in Jeddah. Then it went a little bit downwards but we’re here to bounce back. The victory definitely gave me some confidence - even now when we’ve had some bad races, we know that we can do it.
“I learnt to always believe in yourself! It sounds a bit cliché maybe, but it is very true. Sometimes I think doubt before a race is a good thing but also, sometimes it’s good to have confidence in yourself and know that when it actually has to happen that you can do it.
“All my experience from last season really helped me. Last year, I lost the race because I didn’t do what I did this year – I was leading the race and I didn’t stay calm. I tried to open up a gap of five seconds, which was wholly unnecessary, destroyed my tyres and started losing two seconds a lap. This time, I knew I had more pace but I kept driving slowly in order to keep my tyres alive.
“Now I’m pushing a bit more in the gym and to the team to do it again – only positives!”