2024 FIA Formula 2 Round 1 Post Qualifying Press Conference

FIA Formula 2: Welcome everybody to the press conference with the top three qualifiers in FIA Formula 2 ahead of the Feature Race here in Bahrain. In third place we have Isack Hadjar from Campos Racing, second is Gabriel Bortoleto from Invicta Racing, and in pole position for the first time in Formula 2, Kush Maini also for Invicta Racing. Kush, how sweet does it feel to be sat there in the middle seat with your first pole under your belt?

Kush Maini: Yeah, the off-season is such a long period and it’s all building up to this first quali where you get to see what everyone has. So, there was a lot of pressure but I think we had great pace throughout the session. Just so happy to start the new relationship with the team and the new year in such a great way.

FIA Formula 2: At the end of that session, the gaps were so small at the front, then you went over two tenths quicker than everyone else, that must have felt pretty good.

Maini: Yeah, just everything clicked. Car felt great so I can’t take all the glory, they put a great car under me. It really clicked during the lap and no real mistakes so just a lap I am really happy with.

FIA Formula 2: And a front row lockout as well for the team, do you think that will give you any sort of advantage come Saturday?

Maini: Well, I think having Gabriel in the other car is great for me. He keeps pushing me throughout when we have two quick drivers on the team, it’s always better for the days when we have much less time during the week. We will see tomorrow, and the races are a different story but so far we have worked well together and I am happy.

FIA Formula 2: Congratulations well done today, Gabriel coming to you, second on the grid in your debut Qualifying session in Formula 2, that’s not a bad start to your career at this level?

Gabriel Bortoleto: No absolutely not, I think it was a very positive first qualifying for me in F2, finishing P2, I couldn’t imagine this to be honest. I am happy that Kush is P1, shows that the car is there, that we have the pace as a team. We have a lot of data to analyse, we have different driving styles so this week we can also compare and improve ourselves. Looking forward to the race tomorrow and on Saturday.

FIA Formula 2: How have you found the adaptation to F2, were you confident you could start the season this strongly?

Bortoleto: I wish I had done better on the adaptation to be honest, for me I think it was a little bit easier in F3, with pure speed, I think I am still getting there. Especially with the soft tyres I think I still need to do some steps. It’s normal, you know in F3 we have only one compound per weekend, so it is easier for us. In F2 it is different, here in Bahrain you go from having hard tyres running 50-45’s, then in Qualifying we were doing 41’s. So, it’s a big jump and I’m not used to it but I am getting there and I’m sure there will be bigger steps during the season.

FIA Formula 2: Based on that, what are your hopes for the rest of this weekend when you have got to manage tyres at a race distance, is it just solid points that you hope to get on Saturday or is a trophy on your mind?

Bortoleto: I mean let’s see how things go tomorrow, I think we have the pace, in the test we were looking strong so I am going to do my best tomorrow. If it is possible to get a podium I will be happy and on Saturday the same thing. I will do everything I can to be there, to try for the win and to get as many points as I can.

FIA Formula 2: Isack, thanks for waiting, third place is your best qualifying result in F2. How happy with this start to the year are you, or did you feel like there might be a little bit more in there?

Isack Hadjar: Theres always room for improvement obviously, it’s a good start to the season P3 – I’ll take it. The team did a really good job, really felt like a really strong car the whole day. I didn’t deliver enough on that last set of tyres but enough for third so puts me in a good position for both races, so really happy with today.

FIA Formula 2: The team ran out of sequence on the first runs, and it seem to work really well with both of you going first and second, but did that effect the final run at all with having a shorter gap and a quicker turn around in the pits?

Hadjar: I think every driver wants a short turnover to keep the rhythm instead of waiting in the pitlane for a while. But maybe some drivers prefer that I don’t know - but I was up for it. We had a clean track on the first run, then the second run we were also in a good sequence. In the end, if I had to do it again I would.

FIA Formula 2: Both yourself and Kush have actually changed teams over the winter, I know that might cloud things a little bit, but how have you found the differences in the car this year compared to last year?

Hadjar: Last season was really tricky for me. I have never been in the top three in Qualifying, I felt like I had to drive on a really high level to fight for these positions and now I feel like it’s a bit easier, we have a bit more pace. I get along really well with the team and my engineer. They work really hard and they provide a really good car. At the moment the switch to Campos is working really well for me so really happy with that.

FIA Formula 2: Well done today. Kush to throw the same question to you, a new generation of car in Formula 2, how have you found the transition from last years car to this year?

Maini: In terms of the car I think it is very similar to last year feeling-wise. I think it looks better so that’s a big plus. With the team we work really well together and my engineer and I get along really well, he understands me well. Last year I had a great relationship with the team as well. It’s a great way to start, but it’s just the first quali of the first weekend so it’s a long way to go but we will keep pushing on.

FIA Formula 2: Thanks very much.