Jack Doohan is confident that he can finally stitch together a consistent weekend in Le Castellet after a puzzling run of mistakes and misfortune that has plagued several of his Feature Races this season.
Yo-yoing up and down the order, the Virtuosi Racing driver has struggled to find that most crucial of factors in Formula 2 – consistency. Out of the eight Feature Races in 2022, he has finished second in Barcelona, in the top 10 in four and emerged point-less from the other three.
Describing his campaign so far as “up and down, good, bad, a bit of everything”, Doohan’s varying results have seen him fall away from the leading pack, now ninth in the Drivers’ Championship. While last time out in Spielberg left a bitter taste in his mouth, he recognises the key areas to address going forward into the final six rounds.
“I think that there was something missing for the first quarter-to-half the season, I was maybe trying a little too hard in some aspects - our pace was strong, but I was making a couple of little mistakes. Then we had the disqualification in Jeddah which hurt us badly and the crash off the line in Imola, which was a very strange circumstance and Baku was just a bit of a nightmare.
“I made a rookie mistake in the first race and then a strange one in Race 2. Finishing behind the Safety Car with a five-second penalty was never going to be good, but otherwise we would have had a solid 10 points from what was going to be our worse round of the season, it’s not too bad. That was a hard learning curve in Race 1 because with everything that happened, I could have had a good result. Race 2 was unchangeable on my side, but especially in the last two rounds I’ve been trying quite a lot to take another step forward in myself.
“In a whole, it’s been positive, the approach and the momentum have been good. Unfortunately, a few little issues out of my control have hindered what we could be doing in the Feature Races. The Sprint Races have been going well. It was good in Silverstone to get my first win. Obviously, it was only a Sprint Race, starting P4 in difficult conditions, so at least it felt better. The Feature Race in Silverstone, I think we touched on a combination of things that went wrong, but I think our pace was not bad and really strong on the option tyres. If a few of those things that were out of my control came together, we could have had a strong haul of points there as well.
“It was good to be back on the podium in Spielberg to finish P3. Thinking back on it – at the time I was happy with P3, but I think that with the pace I’ve had, I possibly didn't have to be so conservative and could have possibly pushed forward.
“It was a difficult day on Sunday. Just didn't go right with the tyre choice for one reason or another and had contact at Turn 3 with Felipe (Drugovich) so I lost my rear diffuser. I didn’t know that at the time, I obviously knew there was contact, but I didn't know the extent of the damage. Even in the wet, compared to other guys I had zero pace, which is strange for me in the wet even if it’s not 100% but now obviously knowing why.
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“Then the bottom 16 were on slicks and when we ended up pitting, we were at the back, and I never really had much pace as the race went on. It was a bittersweet end to both those weekends, but I think in myself and what we're doing, we're going in the right direction. A little bit of luck and things going our way, a bit of a normal weekend and I think we should be good. It’s obviously not ideal for these things to happen in the Feature Race as that’s where the big points are coming, but in the end that’s how it is, and we have to try to think back on our performance and what’s in our control. We seem to be getting that better than we had in the previous part of the season. I’m confident that it should come together well when it does.”
While the disappointment might still be raw, Doohan’s determined to bounce back as F2 returns to the Circuit Paul Ricard for the first time since 2019. Filled with fond memories of the French track, which played host to his maiden Formula 3 victory last year, the Australian still doesn’t believe he’s perfectly in tune with it. However, that hasn’t stopped him eyeing up a third pole position in nine rounds if events fall in his favour.
“Apart from Spielberg, which I was actually not bad at, it’s weirdly not us much of a stronger circuit. With the car in the window, we have the chance to put it on pole and do really well. But for one reason or another things haven't been transpiring in cases because of very different reasons.
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“I enjoy this track! It’s quite cool, has a bit of everything. It’s difficult as well, but you never know with Formula 2. I’m just trying to stay very central and see what the weekend brings. Hopefully if everything goes right, we should be in a good window.”
Raised in the sunny, subtropical climate of Australia’s Gold Coast, the scorching temperatures at Le Castellet have got Doohan raring to go. There’ll be no easing off as the mercury is expected to remain around the mid 30’s all weekend and the Alpine Academy junior has got no qualms about working up a sweat in the strenuous conditions.
“I love it! I’m really keen for it, I’m all for it, I’d say bring the heat! I’m looking forward to it, it’s a challenge – it's one more thing that we have to be worrying about but that’s making you uncomfortable, putting you in an area where everyone’s not in their perfect world. It’s difficult, hot and hard to manage, you’re sweating. If you can manage it well, it can be an advantage for you.”
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The weather isn’t the only thing Doohan remains unphased over. Brushing off the expectations and added pressure of competing as an Alpine junior at their home race weekend, he’s remaining focused on the job at hand – securing solid results in both races.
“In all honesty, I hadn’t thought about it. Obviously, it’s good for Alpine their home Grand Prix, but there’s only more emphasis on it if you want to put more emphasis on it. Like Monaco, Macau, a home Grand Prix if it’s for me or for the team - in the end, it’s the exact same thing. It’s just how much extra energy that needs to be put on, but it’s another race weekend for me, for Alpine as well and another opportunity to do well and score some points.”