FIA Formula 2: Welcome to the press conference for the top three finishers for the FIA Formula 2 sprint race here in Azerbaijan. We are joined by race winner Nicholas Latifi from DAMS, in second place, Juan Manuel Correa from Sauber Junior Team by Charouz and in third is Jack Aitken from Campos Racing. Nicholas, you were already leading the championship going into today’s race, so this must count as the perfect result for you?
Nicholas Latifi: Yeah definitely. I went into the race starting P4 and with the Championship lead. The goal was to try and extend it and I was quite confident that I would have a bit of a pace advantage over the guys starting in front, but I also knew that there were some really fast guys behind. After the race yesterday, I was obviously not very happy and I think that in a way I was a bit fortunate with the safety car, but also unlucky, because I think without any safety cars I would have maintained my P3 because I had a massive gap. But, at the same time I was missing a lot of pace, so I think that it could have been a lot worse than where I ended in P4. We did a lot of analysis overnight with the team trying to find out what went wrong. I wasn’t having a comfortable feeling with the car and it is a track where you need a lot of confidence and you have kind of got to feel at one with the car and I just didn’t have that in race one. Whatever the guys did overnight, I felt like a different driver, driving a different car and I just had so much confidence to push on and catch them at the beginning and close the gap, so I am really pleased.
FIA Formula 2: There were lots of safety cars in this one and one with a very late restart, were you sat there hoping it would just finish behind the safety car, what was your mind set when you got the late call?
Nicholas: After the first restart there was obviously still some time to go, so I said ‘okay, this is part of it.’ Jack obviously had to deal with it yesterday and Nyck as well once. You know what it is like, it is not the easiest leading it at the front because you are the first one to arrive at the breaking, so you are the first one to get it wrong if you break a bit too late. After the first restart Juan made a bit of a lunge and I thought ‘I’d rather not go through another one of those restarts.’ It is also difficult to keep the tyre temps and breaks temps through a safety car period that long and you are never sure when it is going to restart when the accidents clear. It is difficult to keep the concentration and focus on, so I am really happy we managed to keep our nose clean and to extend the championship lead is just the icing on the cake.
FIA Formula 2: Well done today. JM, coming onto you. Your first F2 podium, how does that feel?
Juan Manuel Correa: Awesome. It was a tough race and I had a bit of an issue with the breaks in the first few laps. I think I overheated them and I think that was why Nick managed to pull away so much at the beginning - it did not feel comfortable at all. I kind of got into a rhythm, but I still had a problem in the breaks and it took about six laps for them to be okay. I managed them okay and even without being fully comfortable in the car, I still had decent pace - decent enough to keep the guys behind me. When the first safety car came in, it was actually a relief for me, just to get the breaks back on track and get everything reset a little bit. Then like Nick said, in the first restart I was not meaning to send him down the inside, but I saw the other guys coming down my inside and it was either that or get crashed into from behind, so it was tricky, really tricky. In the end, I am happy with how it turned out obviously. I think Nick had a bit more pace than me and probably most of the other people in the field today and it was quite difficult to stay with him, but my pace compared to the guys behind was fine so I am happy about that.
FIA Formula 2: You mention the guys behind and Jack was putting you under pressure in the closing laps there, what was it like dealing with that pressure, especially knowing that a podium was at stake?
Juan: It was not easy and there was a lot of pressure. Instead of outright pace, it is experience that helps quite a bit with how you manage the tyre temperatures and the break temperatures in the restarts, so each time in the restarts I felt like I did not have the car up to 100%, so that was why I was feeling a bit uncomfortable in the first few laps, but once we got into a rhythm I was fine, so that is the only thing and I guess I will start learning from that as I get more experience.
FIA Formula 2: Well done today. Jack, moving onto you. We heard you complaining over team radio about how long it was taking to clear those cars at the end, were you still eying a victory at that stage?
Jack Aitken: Always yeah. I was just a bit impatient because I was a little bit annoyed at the previous restart. I was having a go because I thought I had him - I thought that I had both of those guys actually. It was looking like a classic Baku restart and instead I ended up 4th, so I was a little bit disappointed at that part in the race and quite keen to get going again, but I am quite happy to end up on the podium.
FIA Formula 2: As you say, you got the podium today and a win yesterday, does this feel like a weekend that has really kick started your title challenge?
Jack: Yeah I think it is a proper start for us. In Bahrain, we struggled with a few different things and I think just getting ourselves back on track here was a nice way to start the season properly.
FIA Formula 2: Well done. Nicholas, just returning to you. How do you reflect on the two rounds and the four races that we have had so far this season?
Nicholas: Obviously, with me being in the championship lead I think as a whole it has been quite successful. In Bahrain for sure it was quite a strong weekend and we were clearly one of the quickest on the whole weekend. Then this weekend, obviously we missed a bit in qualifying and the first race, but made the comeback for the second race. All in all, to start the season and first four races with a lot of points is good. I am not going to say it takes a bit of pressure off, but it just gives us a bit of confidence going into the next round so that you don’t have to try anything stupid to try and make up for lost points, DNFs or for silly mistakes that you may have made. I think that is kind of what is on everyone’s minds going into the first race - just score points. So yeah, really happy that we have managed to do that so far.