Frederik Vesti’s victory in the Jeddah Feature Race is the true benchmark for what PREMA Racing should achieve says Team Principal, René Rosin. The team struggled during the season-opening round in Sakhir but bounced back in style, winning the second Feature Race of the campaign.
Vesti overcame a grid penalty in the Sprint Race to secure a P6 finish and vital points for PREMA on Saturday, following that up with a measured drive to victory. Keeping his composure where rivals faltered, team boss Rosin said that it was proof of how strong a driver Vesti truly is.
“I'm impressed. This is what we are expecting from Fred. He is a really hard worker. I would say that the penalty in Bahrain was maybe a bit too much, but I don't want to discuss it further. However, he put it behind him and started working how he is capable of doing. Having two great results in the last two races is impressive and very, very important.
“It's a great result for the team because it proves that we are there, we can do a very good job, and we are back in the positions that everybody expects from PREMA. We just need to continue working and pushing in this direction and I'm sure that the results will keep coming.”
Starting from sixth, Vesti placed his car in precisely the right places to gain two spots in two corners. He launched by Ayumu Iwasa at lights out, and the DAMS driver was subsequently boxed in by Jehan Daruvala. Vesti drove into the first corner halfway alongside the MP Motorsport driver, ensuring that Daruvala had to provide him with racing room. The inside line turned into the outside line at Turn 2, allowing him to complete the pass on corner exit on acceleration to take fourth. Both passes were critical to his hopes and, after staying in touch with Jack Doohan into the pitstop phase, he gave his team the chance to improve their position further.
Rosin paid tribute to the PREMA mechanics’ speedy work in their pit box, turning around Vesti’s #7 car in quick order. Their precision opened the possibility of fighting for an even stronger result by leapfrogging Doohan in the stops. It put him in an effective third place behind Victor Martins and teammate Oliver Bearman.
“I think the pitstop was a key moment and the team did an amazing job. Overtaking Doohan in the pits gave us the chance to get up to P3 after Ollie's and Victor's pitstops. It put us in a great position, and it was game on afterwards. Fred did an amazing job, he maximized the result with a P6 in the Sprint and P1 in the Feature.”
On the other side of the garage, teammate Bearman was looking good for a strong Feature Race result too, but that slipped through his fingers as the race wore on. Rosin isn’t too concerned with the end result, pointing out inexperience can be overcome, and his early season speed only enhanced further.
“Ollie had his result compromised by the incident with Théo Pourchaire and made a mistake due to inexperience today while battling at the front. He was strong all weekend since Free Practice, he understood the circuit, he understood how to play in Jeddah, and everything was going well except for the mistake in the Feature Race. We must be happy about his results, and I'm sure that his performance will soon be up to where we know it can be, and he will show his abilities with solid points and solid results.”
After Round 1, there were no signs of panic from within PREMA despite leaving Sakhir in last place in the Teams’ Standings. Rosin said that the hard work done in between races ensured the Italian outfit righted the ship in short order, providing the drivers with a much better platform to perform in Jeddah.
“There was some misfortune happening in Bahrain. If I consider Qualifying, we had the potential to put both cars in the top five or top six positions. We made some mistakes with the setup for sure in the Sprint Race, which we tried to correct for the Feature Race. Unfortunately, Fred was out on Lap 1, and Ollie paid the price of inexperience in terms of tyre management. It's in the past but I think it has to be an important lesson for us.
“After Bahrain we didn't really have a break, we continued working and looking at data with the drivers. We prepared for Jeddah in the same way we will prepare for Melbourne and that's it. It's important to use Bahrain as a lesson and keep it in mind, because with such a high level in terms of teams and drivers in Formula 2, we need to keep pushing and not rely on past results.”
Round 3 of the season will present everyone with a new challenge and level the playing field entirely. No team or driver has experience around the Albert Park circuit, meaning that adapting as quickly as possible will be critical.
Rosin says that he has no doubt that both Vesti and Bearman can do that and continue to display the speed the team had around Jeddah.
“The Melbourne circuit is new for everybody. We have to take the best out of the preparation to make sure that we maximize the track time in Free Practice to be ready for Quali. From there it's game on. Our drivers are real hard workers, they fit well with each other, and a team that is working equally hard. I feel we can do a good job in Melbourne.”