FIA Formula 2: Welcome to the FIA Formula 2 Championship post-Qualifying Press Conference at the Circuit Paul Ricard. Joining us this evening are George Russell on pole with ART Grand Prix, in second is Alexander Albon from DAMS, and in third is Lando Norris for Carlin. George, first question to you – this is your first F2 pole, and it was a dominant performance we saw from you. What is it you like about this track?
George Russell: There’s nothing in particular that made the difference today, we’ve always been thereabouts this season – we’ve had the pace but never quite optimised it, either due to me or due to the car setup or something that was holding us back. We learned from our mistakes in the previous races and fully optimised it today, so that was the reason for our great performance.
FIA Formula 2: It’s the first time we’ve raced here at Paul Ricard, but we had winter testing here previously this year. What do you make of any changes to the track over the intervening months?
George: Yes, we were made aware – I think it was on the Thursday – of any changes since the test, and you’ve probably seen in Formula 1 and in F2 as well that it’s been a bit of a nightmare where the new surface has the relaid tarmac. But it’s the same for everyone, the track’s very different to testing, and the main difference being the temperature. It was probably about 15 degrees on track, with some rain and snow in the winter, whereas now it was extremely hot. It wasn’t extremely irrelevant, but it hasn’t helped massively coming into this race.
FIA Formula 2: We saw a number of practice starts in Free Practice following the two-step changes – the first coming in Barcelona. Do you have any feedback on it?
George: I think it’s a step in the right direction, we’re still not fully there but we’re going in the right direction – which is the main thing.
FIA Formula 2: Coming to you Alexander, this is your fourth consecutive front row start this season with pole in the previous three races. What’s been behind your strong qualifying performances this season?
Alexander Albon: Not too much really! I think it’s been really good chemistry with DAMS and just trying to get down with it and get the flow with the track. It was a bit compromised today with a throttle sensor issue, I think it was something that Nyck also had at the same time in qualifying, but yeah, clearly with DAMS we’re very strong on short-run pace.
FIA Formula 2: Does the sensor issue give you any further concerns for the rest of the weekend?
Alexander: No, I think I’m very lucky to have it in practice rather than the qualifying or the races. It comes and goes, but I wouldn’t be worried about it, it’s just one of those things that happens.
FIA Formula 2: Coming to you, Lando – we saw a massive improvement from you in the second half of qualifying, you jumped up the order very quickly. What was behind the better pace in the second half?
Lando: I think the main thing was that the first lap was pretty poor – in general this year, we’ve suffered on the supersoft tyres and I’ve never been really confident on them, except from Bahrain. I’ve always felt more confident in practice on the medium or softs, but yeah, my first lap was pretty messy and made quite a few mistakes – mainly because there was quite a big balance shift between practice and qualifying. We changed quite a bit, because there wasn’t one second of improvement just from my driving, we had to make changes and there was a fair amount. Obviously, I tried to do a better lap myself, and I still managed to improve by around a second which was I was quite surprised by, to be honest. I didn’t think we’d find that much, it wasn’t a horrendous first run, but yeah I didn’t really expect to gain a second in one lap. I was pretty happy with third, I’m not normally, but I’m glad to be here in the top three.
FIA Formula 2: Do you have any comment to make on your own practice starts? Did you see any improvement?
Lando: I don’t know, I think it’s slightly better, but I guess we’ll see when everyone pulls off the line tomorrow which is the important thing. It’s not so important pulling out of the pits, it’s more dangerous pulling out and doing the actual start. We’ll have to wait and see.
FIA Formula 2: One last question for you George, it’s a decent run down to the first corner – what’s your strategy for staying ahead off the line?
George: I think it’s just about getting off the line safety, go for a decent start, it’s been very tricky for everyone this year so hopefully we’ll start well – if I concede a position or two it’s not the end of the world, it’s a long race and we’ve seen throughout the year we’ve got great pace and we’ve managed to overtake and fight our way through. It’s a long race, and it’s not won in the first corner.