Zane Maloney will be making his FIA Formula 2 debut this weekend with Trident after a hugely successful Formula 3 campaign. The Bajan driver finished as runner up in the Championship and now has a well-deserved opportunity to get some F2 experience under his belt.
Maloney has been flat out in recent weeks prepping for the season finale at Yas Marina and is under no illusions that it could be a tough weekend and a sizeable learning experience. For him though, that is exactly what he’s after.
“I've not done anything else so far this weekend apart from the seating position which is all good. I'm really looking forward to continuing to work with Trident for this weekend and hopefully having a great weekend. But, most importantly, it’s a great opportunity to start learning a lot for my future.
“I finished the F3 season at Monza, I went on a bit of a break in the US with my girlfriend, and then I got the call saying that I can do Formula 2 in Abu Dhabi with Trident. Of course, I took it straight away. But I've never driven a Formula 2 car, only one test in a GP2 one, so everything is very new. But I've done lots of training in the last week knowing that I was gonna be driving. I've done a lot of work at Trident so hopefully I'm prepared as much as I possibly can be.”
The 19-year-old is no stranger to pulling out performances under pressure. Keeping his scarce title hopes alive, Maloney strung together his finest patch of form this season, winning three consecutive F3 Feature Races in the final three rounds of the year. His efforts meant he ended up just five points shy of eventual Champion Victor Martins.
Having worked with Trident all year long, Maloney will be in familiar colours and a well-known environment. He believes that only bodes well for his chances of acclimatising quickly to F2.
“It definitely helps. Obviously, Giacomo Ricci is the team manager in F3 as well as in F2. So I've been working for over a year with Giacomo. Of course, there are different engineers, different mechanics, so I've been getting to know everyone even though I knew a bit of them throughout the season, because you still go to lunch together at the factory. I feel at home with Trident and it's great to be given the opportunity to do this race and yet to be honest, whatever the result, I'm really just looking to learn for what my future holds.”
Maloney will be tackling the Yas Marina Circuit for the first time in his career, only adding to the challenge he will aim to overcome. While the heat certainly doesn’t bother him, he acknowledges that learning the ropes could be aided by having to worry less about what is going on around him.
“It's been really cool. Of course, I went to Bahrain earlier in the year, it’s quite similar to Bahrain and I really enjoyed it there. This is my type of weather in terms of the heat. I'm having a good time here so far and I expect it to be a bit less chaotic than F3 with there being less cars on track. It should be more about just doing the job and not really what can happen around you. That can affect you. So it's just about focusing on the goal ahead and getting up to speed in Practice as soon as possible. I think that's the main thing for me.”
In spite of not knowing what the race weekend holds, the Trident driver is expecting a tough time no matter what happens. With new tyres to learn in just a single Free Practice session, Maloney is being realistic of what is and isn’t possible to master.
Instead, he is focused on being consistent across both races in what is a prized opportunity to learn on the job. Hoping to contend in the reverse grid Sprint Race is the best-case scenario Maloney is aiming for.
“To be honest, I have no idea how you can follow in an F2 car, so we'll see. My goal is to get in the top 10 in Qualifying and be able to be in that reverse grid scenario. We’ll have to do less overtaking if that happens, but I think the deg will be quite high because the races are during the day, whereas last year they were at night.
“Whoever can manage the tyres the best will do the best at the end of the race and will be able to overtake because when there's a tyre advantage, then it makes a big difference and then it's easy to overtake. My main focus is Qualifying and the racing stuff. It's just learning what to do for next year.”