Jak Crawford says he and Hitech Pulse-Eight have made tangible progress already this season. He secured a reverse grid pole with a top 10 Qualifying result in Jeddah, which was a solid step forward from his efforts in Sakhir in the opening weekend of 2023.

The Red Bull junior was one the few drivers who opted to start a flying lap in between the first and second Red Flags. It was a move that, while unorthodox, gained him plenty of confidence heading into the all-important final flying laps of the day. The American driver says that the decision to run in the gap was a crucial part of how he was able to find so much time and achieve a top 10 finish in the session.

“It was a good session results-wise. We were down at the bottom after the first run and things weren’t looking great. Then after the first Red Flag, we went out again and I wanted to do a lap just to see if I could improve my driving. I didn't finish that lap, but I think he gave me gave me some good references.

“When we went out for the second run, I delivered on my first push lap, which was good, I think after the first Red Flag, running in the gap really helped me. 10th is not where we want to be but we're making improvements already from Bahrain, so it's a good step.”

Crawford was one of several rookies who confounded expectations. He capitalised to secure a top 10 starting position around one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar, at a venue he had no prior experience of.

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Having returned to a team he worked with previously in the form of Hitech is a bonus in what is his rookie campaign in F2. With pre-existing working relationships with several team members around him in 2023, the adaptation process has been a swift one for both him and teammate, Isack Hadjar.

“It’s my first race on a street circuit, and I’m loving it. Qualifying was one of the most satisfying sessions I’ve ever done. You have so much grip and you’re inches from the wall in every corner. It’s so fun.

He continued: “I was already with Hitech in F3, so I know everyone, and it feels like I've been with them for a long time, which is nice. The environment is really good. F3 is very tough series, and even though me and my teammate, we're both rookies, I still think with the experience of the team and the engineers, we’re able to learn a lot. Not having an experienced teammate, it's tough sometimes just because it’s all new for me and Isack but I think it’s coming good so far.”

With eyes on the Sprint Race tomorrow, Crawford believes that the hard work to achieve a top 10 starting position will pay dividends. While he would like to be on pole for the Feature Race, securing points in the Sprint will only benefit his adaptation process to F2.

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One thing he is confident about though is the team’s race pace. Hitech Pulse-Eight was one of the teams that impressed in the race stints last time out in Sakhir, and Crawford sees no reason why tomorrow won’t bring more of the same.

“I’m so happy about it. It’s not a Feature Race but it’s still a pole and there’s a race to win. I’m confident in our race pace, we’ve already showed it in Bahrain. So, starting from the front row, it’ll be about having a good start and then we’ll see from there. I’m really happy to be up there and excited for tomorrow.

“It’s hard to tell really how the tyres will hold up. We were able to improve from quite a long way in Free Practice on the medium tyres. I was improving in my race stint on lap eight or nine I think, so they’re quite good. On the supersoft tyre, two laps seemed to be the limit of the grip, which is more than most tracks where it could be half a lap, but we’ll see how the degradation is. I’m not expecting it to be too high but conditions are expected to be hot so we could be dealing with some overheating. We’ll see how it goes but I’m confident.”