Every driver dreams of putting together the perfect lap in Qualifying, securing pole position and hopefully setting themselves up for victory and a huge points haul.
Cem Bölükbasi is the first driver to talk us through the ideal Qualifying run, the factors he believes every driver strives for in nailing the perfect lap and the differences between Formula 2 Qualifying and Esports one-lap efforts.
“I think even before Qualifying, the Free Practice session is quite crucial because we have limited time as Practice is just 45 minutes long. So, it's important to know what you're doing, know your plan, and you just have to stick to your plan without making any major mistakes because you learn with every lap, especially if you're like me and it’s your first time driving at some tracks.
“Every lap you do is a plus and more experience, but in Qualifying it’s difficult. You have to be fast but it’s also about how you present your car, compromising the right corners to maximise the lap. It's also about patience. You know that in some corners, you can take it faster, when you have to take it a bit slower to open up the next one. I think it's a game of patience and knowing the limits of Formula 2 cars the best you can.
“When you head out of the pits, you’re thinking about the limits and what you're going to do during your whole Qualifying session. You think about the preparation phase, it’s not just for the car, but for the driver as well. You have in your mind while you're preparing, heating up everything, you're going through your lap. You're doing your push lap already mentally, to understand which speed, which gears you're going to carry into the corners. You're basically just proactively thinking about your first push lap. Then the first push lap is understanding how close the track is to the mental picture you had. I think that's why preparation is key. Because the closer that is, the better it is for you to push.
“On that first lap, you kind of don't want to go over the limits. You learn your limits on your first push and then the second one of course, it's your actual push lap. Where you could have carried a bit more speed, it’s time to carry that little bit more momentum. If you could take that a bit faster, it's time to do that. So, it's about nailing, absolutely nailing your second lap and trusting the tyre, trusting the car and just pushing yourself.
“I think if you ask every single driver on the grid if they had a perfect lap, I think they would say no, because every time, even if it's a very good lap, you know if you do a couple more you can get better. In eSports you have unlimited practice time, unlimited new tyres, unlimited cars. If you have a crash, you just press a button, and then you're good to go again. So it's a different strategy in eSports. You do do the perfect lap. You can't say ‘oh, it was the perfect lap for conditions.’ No, you know every condition because you've done thousands of laps in every single condition. It's not about getting the optimal lap, it is about getting the perfect lap.
“In terms of perfect lap in the car, I think it's perfect to the standards of the optimum lap. Maybe with two or three more sets of new tyres, you could improve. It's about getting as close as possible to perfect, not doing the perfect lap, but who can get the most out of it with the limited amount of laps you've done. It's the perfect lap to your standards, to your tyre limit.
“The car has to do what you want it to do too. You want to be able to push the car, you don't want to be hesitating. You have to have the full trust in your car. You have to push the limit you have to have the full trust in your tyres if they're perfectly warmed up. So, you need to have a very balanced car and have a very predictable car.
“I think Qualifying has been my weaker side, not just from an experience side. With the incident, it set me back a little bit but in Qualifying, we've been improving. We've had some bad luck with red flag timings so I think we can do better than what we've done. Hopefully we can put together what we've learned so far this season because we've been improving. Every weekend I think we have a lot more to come and we know where to improve, which is important. We should get better with this in time.”