It’s been a long few months for Sean Gelael, who last raced back at Barcelona in August after an injury to his back ruled him out of Rounds 7 to 10. The Indonesian has had to watch on from the side-lines as his rivals went racing in the likes of Spa and Mugello.
Nearly three months later, Gelael’s recovery and rehabilitation is well underway, with the DAMS driver gearing up for his return to the cockpit in the final two rounds of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit.
We caught up with him ahead of his return to discuss his recovery process and look ahead to the conclusion of the campaign.
WHY HAS GELAEL BEEN AWAY?
Gelael was injured in Round 6 of the season at Barcelona when his DAMS went airborne on the final lap of the Feature Race and landed hard on the kerb.
Despite initially hoping that the injury wouldn’t keep him out for too long, doctors confirmed that he had broken his D4 vertebra and estimated that he would be out of action for six weeks, with a period of rehab on top of this.
“It was more about being cautious in case I went over another kerb or had another impact,” he explained. “You hear that and you’re frustrated, especially because of how the season was going for me. You know, I haven't done a lot of laps really and I had so many DNFs in those first four or five rounds.
“You kind of have to take a step back though and realise that there is a silver lining to everything.”
WHAT HAS HE BEEN UP TO?
It’s that type of positivity which has helped Gelael throughout the entire process. He has enjoyed being back home in Indonesia with his family and friends. He says he’s even dipped in and helped with his father’s Indonesian KFC Franchise at times.
You kind of have to take a step back though and realise that there is a silver lining to everything.
Gelael has spent a lot of time getting laps in at the swimming pool as well as getting out and riding his bike. More recently, he’s been able to get back into the gym for some proper weight training as he works to rebuild his muscles.
He has also spent some time on his own simulator and hopes to get some karting under his belt before he heads to Bahrain. Those initial three weeks contained a lot of laying around and relaxing though, something that doesn’t come naturally to Gelael.
“During those first three weeks you want to move and you want to recover faster,” he explained. “But, the fastest way is to literally just lay down, especially because it’s your back, so any movement affects it a lot.
“After that, it’s about strengthening the muscles around your mid-to-upper back so that they are strong around the bones. That means that you can recover better, and it reduces the chances of it happening again.”
HOW GELAEL BENEFITTED FROM JÜRI VIPS JUMPING IN THE CAR
Red Bull Jüri Vips joined Dan Ticktum in the garage at DAMS for the four rounds of the season that Gelael was unable to do, with the Indonesian driver asking Vips to “look after my baby.”
This allowed the French team to continue gathering data for Gelael ahead of his return and to continue working on the car. This way, they could hand it back to him in optimum condition. It also allowed Vips the opportunity to make his F2 debut, with the two sharing a contact in Marko Asmer, a former GP2 racer.
“Marko is his manager and he helped me during my first years of F3, so we had a good relationship,” he explained. “I have spoken to Jüri quite a bit, especially those first couple of races. He is a good guy and I was happy that he was in the car and I was happy to see him get a podium.
“Obviously, I wish it were me driving, I’m not going to lie, but I was happy for him and I was pleased for the team. The team were super unlucky with the DNFs that we suffered in the first couple of races. Those things happen and at the end of the day, they’ve improved the car and gotten some results.”
HIS RETURN TO RACING
Gelael will benefit from F2’s end of season calendar, as the final two rounds 2020 will take place at the Bahrain International Circuit which he says isn’t as physically demanding as places like “Silverstone and Mugello."
Obviously, I wish it were me driving, I’m not going to lie, but I was happy for him and I was pleased for the team.
The second benefit of making his return at Sakhir is that it’s a circuit Gelael knows well and has experience at on the 18-inch Pirelli tyres, having tested there with DAMS back in pre-season. The layout of the track will differ in Round 12 with F2 joining F1 in adopting the outer circuit, something Gelael will be less familiar with.
He’s hoping to make up for lost time in the final four races and push for his best results of 2020. “I am super excited,” he elated. “This was already a big break for the rest of the F2 grid, but it was even longer for me: two months more.
“Expectations remain the same as they have done throughout the year. We want to get a good bunch of points in both races, whether that be top eight in the Feature Race and a reverse grid podium in the Sprint Race, or whatever.
“I was lucky that there was a long break between Sochi and Bahrain, so I am happy that I am able to come back. Hopefully, I can have a good final two rounds and bring back a trophy this year - I don't want to go trophyless for a year!”