FIA Formula 2: Hello and welcome to the Press Conference following the FIA Formula 2 Feature Race in Azerbaijan. We are joined by race winner Alexander Albon for DAMS, in second place is Jack Aitken for ART Grand Prix, and in third place is Antonio Fuoco for Charouz Racing System. Alexander, I’m going to start with you; you were laughing after taking pole position after qualifying. Were you laughing after taking your first Formula 2 victory?

Alexander Albon: Not really, I was just relieved! It was a really, really eventful race, Baku never fails us in that sense. As I said before, the main thing was to get off the line, and then from there I knew I could race. Race pace itself wasn’t as good as we wanted, we could tell as soon as the first few laps went away. In qualifying, we had a bit of an issue with the car – not an issue, but something set-up related, and we carried that over into the race. We were just hurting our tyres, basically, and for qualifying it was okay but in the race it made it really difficult to manage. We didn’t have the pace of George and Nyck, and for the pitstop…unfortunately, when you’re in the pitbox that we’re at, we’re the first ones in. Obviously it’s nice to have a clean entry but when everyone pits on the same lap it’s just a traffic jam, and it was my mistake as well – I wanted to stay out an extra lap, but I probably should have pitted earlier and covered George off. That said, if I’d come in he would have stayed out so I don’t think it would have made a difference. But yeah, after that on the restart, I think all three of us knew that whoever got the restart done right would be the guy who wins the race. I don’t know how many laps we had left, something like nine laps, but yeah, it’s not as easy to follow as you think on this track, so we all wanted to outbrake each other! I had confidence on the brakes, I knew that from the first lap under braking, and I thought ‘okay, wherever these guys brake I’m going to brake at the same spot’, but because I was on the inside I could get a switchback. But as we all realised, it was too late – brakes were cold, tyres were cold, and Antonio drove straight past us. To be honest, I was quite lucky as well with Markelov. I really couldn’t see anything, other than Antonio’s rear wing, so I figured as long as I could see it I’d be okay. I think we all backed off, although I probably backed off a little bit less than Antonio as I could see him, and that gave me the opportunity to get the run on him down the start/finish line. From there, it was just a case of not hitting the wall!

FIA Formula 2: On the point of not putting it in the wall, we did see quite a few mistakes today from drivers who were running quite high up as well. How difficult was it to keep your concentration?

Alexander: It was really hard for me, to be honest, because George and Nyck were so quick ahead of me. I was kind of in no-man’s-land, nobody in front of me or behind me, and the team were eager for me to catch up. It felt like, at one point, I was just doing qualifying laps lap-after-lap, and I was like ‘guys, I’ve got to calm down here, you’re telling me I’ve got to faster in Sector 2’ and I’m skimming the walls everywhere. And I’m like, I know my limit, I can’t give it much more than this. So yeah, I had so many moments where my heart was in my mouth, and even following Antonio I thought he was going to crash about three or four times and I was thinking “why won’t this guy just crash?” laughs In the end, it worked out well, and I got the win.

FIA Formula 2: Congratulations. Jack, moving on to you. Your first ever podium in Formula 2, but obviously not the ideal start to your race. What were your emotions like sat on the grid?

Jack Aitken: Er, mixed! But I have to echo Alex’s sentiment where it was just the priority to get off the line, and then we knew we’d race from there. Being my first time here, I knew that as we got into the race I’d build more and more confidence, and it would be easier from there. I didn’t expect to stall, we’d played it on the safe side but these things still happen, so I had work to do – we were quite lucky that the safety car allowed us to catch up, and then I just started to work my way through the pack. I didn’t go crazy early on, because I knew it would be a long race and there’d probably be more safety cars, and picked them off one by one. The second safety car came out – one of the Campos cars crashed – and by then I was close to the reverse grid so that was my complete focus at that stage. I was getting more and more confident with the car, putting a few moves on people. I was quite happy with where I was and was quite confident that I could do that. Then, obviously, I saw the chaos unfold in front of me, and I was in my own three-wide battle with Latifi and Norris. Once I got past Latifi I was in my own clean air and was able to chase these guys down a little bit. I think, given more laps, we could have…well, the pace was good and Alex was quick and had a bit of a gap, and I was happy after my start to be P2, so it was a nice race.

FIA Formula 2: Just take us through that final part of the race, were you content with what you had or when the podium opened up were you skimming the walls like these guys were?

Jack: I was still skimming the walls, it was pretty sketchy at points, and then there was the moment when Markelov’s engine blew and I think it was a decent job by the marshals actually. We were driving into a smokescreen and the only thing that saved me was the green light panel, which said that the sector was clear, and obviously it was the next sector where he’d stopped so I was confident to push even though I was blind. I closed up a bit on these guys, saw that I had some pace on Antonio and I was thinking ‘I’m not gonna go crazy, but I want that P2’, because you never know – maybe Alex crashes and it becomes the win. So yeah, I was gonna go for it always.

FIA Formula 2: Congratulations – Antonio, coming on to you. We think today is the first time you’ve led a lap in Formula 2. When you were in the lead, would you still be happy with third place or did you think the win was there for you?

Antonio Fuoco: To be honest, I think today we could have won the race. We were in front, I had good pace, full focus on the race and Alex didn’t close the gap too much, so I was quite relaxed. Then when the smoke came out from Markelov, it was a bit of a dangerous situation because we didn’t know if the car was there, or what was happening in that case, but I didn’t want to say anything. Maybe in that case it’s better to put a virtual safety car, because it’s okay for the guy behind – they can see me. But I come across his car on the track, maybe I’d crash. And I think that’s not what we want. By the end, I’m happy for the podium for the team, because it’s their first season and second round for them, so we are quite happy from one side but not so much from the other.

FIA Formula 2: If you can just talk us through that final restart, what were you thinking when you saw everyone going in different directions at turn 1?

Antonio: To be honest, I spent quite a lot of time watching the races in the past, and I saw the race of 2016 where maybe six or seven cars went straight. It was a bit scary with the guy behind, because they pushed quite a lot, it was maybe Markelov who came quite close to my back, and after that when I was first I thought I just needed to keep my focus, push to the limit and try to win the race. But it didn’t work too much!

FIA Formula 2: Congratulations on the podium. Alex, just coming back to you, we talked about title rivals and the two guys alongside you then (Norris and Russell) didn’t have quite such successful races. Does this feel like a really good weekend for you to make up some ground?

Alexander: Yeah, definitely. I think after Bahrain…it’s still so early to be honest, but the last guys you want to be winning races are the guys that are quick enough to do it. You’ve seen it already, the championship is so unpredictable, but when you see the same guys in qualifying next to me it’s a bit like “uhh”! To outscore them, you really have to be ahead and then you’ll catch them up slowly. These races are really important to just try and catch back up. When Norris stalled, there was a wry smile, I guess! The only thing I was thinking “please can this not be me in the actual start!”. I think with George and Nyck, they were quite unlucky and off-line, so that’s why they couldn’t make the corner and I could. But I’m not complaining!

FIA Formula 2: I think it was Lando yesterday who asked you to stall in the race…

Alexander: laughs Yeah I think it’s karma, maybe we both just need to keep our mouths shut!