THOUGHTS FROM SHWARTZMAN, MAZEPIN AND SCHUMACHER
FIA Formula 2: Hello and welcome to the press conference with the top three finishers in today's FIA Formula 2 Feature Race here in Hungary. We are joined by race winner Robert Shwartzman for PREMA Racing, in second place is Nikita Mazepin for Hitech Grand Prix, and third is Mick Schumacher, also for PREMA Racing. Robert, back-to-back Feature Race wins for you this season, and what a drive! Let's talk about the start first. Was getting a good launch and making up all those positions on that one crucial?
Robert Shwartzman: Yes, obviously. I think it was one of the best starts I've ever done. It was a perfect launch, with no wheel spin. I passed two or three cars just on the straight. Then I risked a bit and went to the outside of Turn 1, and I was right behind Mick at that point. On Turn 2 I was on the inside and so gained another position, and at that time I was P6. At the start I was surprised I was sixth, so it was a really good start. We had a different strategy which was a longer stint compared to the other guys. My target was to take it easy with the tyres from the beginning, to manage them until the end. There were a few safety cars. I saw contact between Christian Lundgaard, and I think it was Luca Ghiotto, so I got past Christian for P5. My target was just to keep up with the tyres and everybody pitted, so I was completely alone on track. To be honest it was a bit surprising. I looked at my front left and it started to degrade so I began to lose the pace. I thought it was going to be a long race and I was going to struggle a lot, but in fact other drivers were struggling as well and their pace wasn't really much faster than mine, so I was pushing really hard. After the pit stop, I was P4, but I had fresher tyres. The team did a really good job with the strategy and with the pit stop. I got back past in a few laps, took the lead and we won the race, so it was really positive.
FIA Formula 2: If we talk about that stint when you were alone on track, how hard is that to judge you pace? Were you aware of just how crucial it was at that spell that you were putting yourself into a position to win the race?
Robert: It's kind of funny because when I was on my own driving, I didn't have any reference in front or behind. But I did manage to find a reference! Basically, I saw Mick. When I was exiting from Turn 1 and going to Turn 2, you can see the people who are coming from the penultimate corner - so Turn 13 to 14. I was looking and I could see Mick in the white and red car! He was my reference, and every time I was there, he was more or less in the same position. I knew he had fresher tyres, and with my older tyres I thought my pace wasn't bad. I tried to push. The only thing I must say is that I'm really sorry to the guys. Luckily it didn't cost us anything, but I mean my lock-up in Turn 1 out of the pit exit. I didn't expect it to happen. I barely touched the brake and the fronts locked up completely. Throughout the nine laps with the option tyres they were vibrating a lot. It sounds funny, but literally on the straight my car was jumping all over the place. But, with the better set I had way bigger pace than the other guys and I used it. It was really good.
FIA Formula 2: Well done today, congratulations. Nikita, moving on to you. Your first podium in Formula 2. Just how good does it feel to be sat up there?
Nikita Mazepin: Extremely good. It's been quite a long break since I've been in a press conference. It would have been back in GP3. It hasn't been the easiest start out of all for me in Formula 2. To be honest, I didn't have the easiest or best of days yesterday either. The qualifying didn't look too bad but then my lap time was deleted, and that meant my starting position wasn't very good. Looking back, I would say that realistically, if I was further up the grid, I probably wouldn't have chosen that strategy. It didn't turn out too badly! For me, I would say that the last eight laps became extremely strange. I didn't have the best start; I didn't have the best opening laps. We had the pace and I was trying to go forward, but there was quite a lot going on around me and I was always stuck on the wrong racing line. I would end up overtaking the car but then we would both lose a place, so I'd virtually be in the same position. The team kept informing me that the pace was still quite strong on the first set of tyres we were on. I thought that was strong, but too an extent because I was around P15. Then at some point I started to realise that I was beginning to overtake cars that had started way in front of me and that was extremely fun! It was a few seconds a lap difference minimum. I ended up getting to P2, and the whole race was very intense but very interesting. We also had quite a good pit stop. That's an important thing to mention because we as a team, as a new team, have struggled with that this year. We've lost out on some points finishes because of it. Huge thanks to the team for working hard and working on themselves and nailing it today. Hitech is a new team in Formula 2 this year, and I'm extremely happy to be on the podium, in our third round, with a new bunch of people. A very good day for us.
FIA Formula 2: You mentioned your starting position. Starting so far back, even though you knew your pace was good, did the team tell you what was possible in terms of the final result? Did you know the podium in range?
Nikita: No. The team didn't really inform me on positions, although I would have liked to know. They said, "we're currently in P15". I would say that was probably in lap 10 after the safety cars. That was something I would have expected. To gain one position after an average first two laps. I completely had no idea because the tyres were obviously dropping away and I could feel that. I was just trying to maximise what I had. I didn't know it was very much the same, or worse, for everybody around me. It's just one of those crazy, interesting F2 things that sometimes happen, and it happened very unexpectedly.
FIA Formula 2: Congratulations, well done today. Mick, moving on to you. Obviously, that second stint looked particularly tough having led for so much. Just how challenging was it on those tyres, trying to make it to the end?
Mick Schumacher: I knew that the tyre deg was going to be an issue this weekend. Obviously, knowing how the option set went, normally it's quite normal to get a lot of understeer in the first set with the options. If you go to the primes, it's then kind of balanced. But now, it was really the front left that was the issue in both stints. I saw the way Callum Ilott was driving, the way he was trying to save the tyres but ended up losing a lot of time compared to me, so I wanted to prevent that and try and make it to the end. I probably overdid it a bit. I feel I probably could have pushed a bit harder. After the drop of the tyre it stabilised. Obviously, that's something you don't know if you haven't driven in Free Practice like us. We had to try and figure everything out on track as we were doing it. In this case, the alternate strategy was the more interesting one. It was the one that seemed to give the opportunity to be further in front. Nevertheless, the team did a mega job. It shows the pace that we have, the potential that we have, being first on the 'normal' strategy. It's like a win for us, even though it isn't on paper, it feels like it is. I'd like to say thank you to everyone that's supported me. I've had a few difficult races in Austria, but we always had the pace. So, to get some points, for the Teams' Championship too, is something very important. I'm looking forward to the next race. This one was a lot of fun. I'm enjoying every second out there, and every time I step into the car. I really want more of that.
FIA Formula 2: You mentioned being the lead car on this strategy, and obviously you won here last year. This is your first podium since then. You seem to like this place!
Mick: Yeah, it seems to always happen here. It was the same back in F3. After that it improved, and it kept going. Budapest is an interesting track. It's a very demanding track because you have very little resting, and when I say resting it's mainly for the tyres. We know that it's a high-deg track. For rookies to come here and experience a bit of deg, it was a whole lot different last year. Last year was proper deg! To also be able to push a bit, and to be able to go towards the limit was nice. P3 is a good position with a good amount of points thinking long term. It's good points for the team too as I said earlier.
FIA Formula 2: Congratulations, well done today. Robert, just returning to you. Back-to-back Feature Race wins as I said earlier. Do you think this is marking you out? The races are coming thick and fast, so would you say that you are the title favourite now?
Robert: I don't really look at stuff like that to be honest. I really enjoy Feature Races because you have the strategy and pit stops. I'm really happy that we work really hard with the team to analyse and find the best solution when it comes to strategy. It worked out great last time in Austria, and it worked out even better today. I'm just enjoying these races. It's more fun, because when it's a one stint race you don't really have much possibility to get past the guys in front. It can be a bit limited. Here you have the possibility to decide when you want to push and when you want to save. It's really interesting and I'm enjoying it as much as I can.