Théo Pourchaire was on cloud nine as he took to the track for Alfa Romeo, as one of three Formula 2 stars in action during Free Practice 1 at the United States Grand Prix.
A monumental moment for the ART Grand Prix racer, Pourchaire was understandably grinning from ear to ear as he soaked up every second of his Formula 1 weekend debut in Austin.
Reflecting on both the excitement and challenges the opportunity presented, he said: “I’m very, very happy. It was a crazy experience to drive in FP1 and to make my debut on a Grand Prix weekend in Austin. That track is amazing, and I hope I will have this opportunity a bit more often in the future.
“It was very tough for me because I was discovering the car and the track, and at the same time I was driving in FP1 with 19 other drivers. There were some rookies as well, but most of the grid were F1 drivers so it was a lot of pressure, but then when I was in the car, I was fully focused on my job.
“It was very fun to drive with people like Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. It was also a bit stressful because the traffic management is tough in F1, it’s super-fast, and you have to be really careful to watch your mirrors.”
After preparing for the session with simulator work back at the team’s Swiss base in Hinwil, Pourchaire worked closely with the engineers to absorb as much knowledge about the car prior to hopping into the C42 – including speaking with their current drivers, Valtteri Bottas and F2 graduate Zhou Guanyu.
“You have a lot more things to do, there’s a lot of settings on the steering wheel. Also, I worked with more people – an F1 team is much bigger than an F2 team, which is good for me as I can learn a lot from them and get as much experience as possible,” he added.
Describing the experience of managing the session as “very intense”, the 19-year-old put in a successful showing in P18, with a best lap time of 1:40.325.
Whilst the final round of the 2022 F2 season is less than two weeks away, Pourchaire is already committed to putting the benefits of his F1 experience into practice when he returns to the track in Abu Dhabi.
Although adapting back to the more familiar machinery can pose a challenge for drivers, the Sauber Academy junior believes it will help him to extract the maximum out of the ART car, allowing him to focus on making the crucial minor changes needed in order to close his campaign on a high.
“I learned a lot of things with the engineers and the way in which to work with the team. I can improve that and myself, it’s the little details that are very, very important for performance. Also, driving a much faster car means that when I get back in the F2 car, it will feel a bit different and a bit easier so I can reach the limit of the car a bit faster during the weekend.”