Lirim Zendeli will be taking a leaf out of Felipe Drugovich’s book when he steps into the Brazilian’s former machinery at MP Motorsport next season, saying that he believes he can fight as an underdog next season and push the team to continue their positive progression.
Drugovich and MP were the surprise package in F2 last year, with the Brazilian taking three wins and a pole position, before a switch to 2020 title contenders UNI-Virtuosi. Graduating from Formula 3, Zendeli says that while he’s remaining realistic, he hopes that he can have a similar impression and help the team to further unlock their potential.
“Felipe showed that the team can win and that they can take poles,” explained Zendeli. “I don't want to set any goals or targets for the season, I just want to develop even further and make the same types of steps that I did in F3 in 2020.
“Mostly, I want to be competitive and consistent, I think that is the most important thing. My goal is to learn as fast as possible and to challenge the more experienced drivers.
“MP have already shown great potential this season, they had some great wins and even pole position. I think pole in F2 is impressive, you would usually only expect that from teams likes of PREMA or Virtuosi.
“I believe that the team still have more potential. They have had some great races this year and I think we can do even better in the upcoming season.”
Zendeli may have become famous for his Iron Man inspired helmet in 2020, but on track, he enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in Formula 3. Swapping Charouz for Trident for his second season, the German translated two points finishes and 18th place into three podiums, two poles, a win and P8 overall.
The 21-year-old visibly grew as the season progressed and will arrive in F2 as a much more confident driver, which he feels will be key to his progression.
“I was more confident towards the end of the season,” he continued. “I learned so much with Trident, they made me a better driver and helped me to show my potential and what I am capable of.
“I think that I’ve made big improvements. For sure, I might have had a great third year in F3 and fought for the championship, but the goal is to develop myself more and to be competitive in F2. I looked for a chance in F2. I have gotten it and now I want to take it.”
The early signs appear promising for Zendeli, he enjoyed a productive pre-season testing period with the Dutch team that included a P6 finish on the final day.
The three-day stint in Bahrain gave him his first impressions of what it will take to succeed in the top tier of junior motorsport, and it’s safe to say it left an impression.
“Testing was great, the car felt great and I am proud to be in F2 now and very thankful for the chance,” he explained. “I think that I was pretty quick even on my first day and I can see that things are going well. It is testing, so you can't take too much from that, but we tested a lot of things and I was able to see how the car reacted to different setups.
“It was amazing to see the difference between getting a clean lap and even making one or two small mistakes, you could lose as much as six or seven tenths. That was something that we never experienced in F3. There is no room for mistakes in F2. I feel like I have already learned a lot.”
Most importantly, will the famous Iron Man helmet be staying?
“Let’s see – I'm currently working on it, but I handle it like Tony Stark,” he laughed. “First you finish something, then you show it.”