Overtaking around the streets of Monte Carlo is a challenge for even the most experienced of drivers, but Cem Bölükbasi proved otherwise in today’s Sprint Race. On his Monaco debut, the Charouz Racing System driver nailed a blistering start to climb six places, all the way up to a career-best Formula 2 result in P12.
Speaking after the race, Bölükbasi was thrilled with his performance and admitted he was surprised to discover exactly how strong his opening lap had been.
“I think my start getaway was good, but then everyone was trying to be cautious with Jake (Hughes) stalling (on the grid),” he said. “I had to get around a lot of people. Then we were positioned well before Turn 1 and into Turn 1, I could overtake some people around the outside even until the exit of the corner.
“I’d already taken five cars before Turn 1 and then another one at the exit of Turn 1. Honestly, I didn't know it was six people, I thought it was more like three or four, I was thinking I’m probably like P15. Then my engineer Peter (Van Leeuwen) told me ‘You’re P12’ - I didn’t know the extra three people so I was quite happy.”
From then on it was all about putting together a mature and measured race, as the Turkish driver sought to keep Trident’s Richard Verschoor at bay. The unforgiving circuit left no room for error and Bölükbasi had to remain completely focused under pressure, finding himself unable to ease up for a split second.
“For 30 laps, he was right behind me and made a couple of moves. It was definitely not easy, but it was really fun. Compared to other tracks, you don't have any straights where you can relax a little bit. It’s also nice because there are fewer overtaking opportunities so it's easier to defend in a way, but you will have to defend your position unless you make a mistake.
“Knowing that for 30 laps, you need to remind yourself - OK, just get clean exits. Don't make any mistakes because Richard (Verschoor) is right behind me, he's looking for one mistake and then he’s going to get me.”
Bringing home his highest result in F2 so far following two 14th-place finishes at the opening round in Sakhir, Bölükbasi is optimistic about the gradual progress he’s been showing throughout the opening five rounds of the season.
“Compared to the difference to the fastest lap, every race we're catching up to the front pack, which is good for us.
"We're improving, which is key. I think in a way this is my best performance as a result and hopefully we can build on this.”
Looking ahead to the Feature Race, Bölükbasi is eager to not only to secure another strong result for Charouz, but for the chance of wet weather to make appearance which could give him the opportunity to move forward from P20.
“First race in Monaco (done) and hopefully I can replicate it again tomorrow. Luckily, I have a few more laps and maybe we can be good with the strategy. I would look forward to a wet race. Even though I've never driven the car in the wets before in Monaco, I think it would just make a very exciting race. I would love to have that as an experience to say I’ve done it.”