THOUGHTS FROM TSUNODA, MAZEPIN AND SCHUMACHER
FIA Formula 2: Hello and welcome to the press conference with the top three finishers in today's FIA Formula 2 Feature Race here in Belgium. We are joined by race winner Yuki Tsunoda for Carlin, in second place is Nikita Mazepin for Hitech Grand Prix, and third is Mick Schumacher for PREMA Racing. Yuki, your first Feature Race victory, and in dramatic circumstances. Let's just start with the finish. Can you talk us through that incident with Nikita from your perspective?
Yuki Tsunoda: From my side, I tried to overtake in Turn 5, in the braking zone. He was quite close. I couldn't overtake him in the DRS Zone on the straight, so I tried to overtake him in the braking zone and tried to go around the outside. For me, I didn't overshoot. There was still enough space to make that corner, but there was no space. I went off track and I had to re-join at Turn 6 and it was quite hard, driving on the kerb and jumping around. It was not good for the car. I was a bit frustrated honestly about that, but I tried to keep calm. Like I said, this race was for Anthoine, so I just pushed to the end. Finally, the result was P1 and I'm really happy for that.
FIA Formula 2: If we look at the rest of that race, you were leading early on but then had a slow pit stop. What happened there and did you think it was going to cost you the win?
Yuki: The pace was really good from the beginning. In the pit stop, when I tried to re-join to the fast lane there was a car behind. If I had rejoined quickly after the pit stop had finished, I thought it was going to be an unsafe release. It was really close. I would say it was a good job from the mechanics to not take risks. We just didn't have much luck in that pit stop. But honestly, I'm really happy. I have to say a big thanks to the mechanics for getting me to the track in a good way.
FIA Formula 2: Well done today. Nikita, moving on to you. You crossed the line first and then had that time penalty that dropped you to second. We've heard you speak a little bit about it already, but just let us know your thoughts on that incident, and also the whole fight towards the end of that race.
Nikita Mazepin: I think the main thing to say is that we as a team once again performed strongly. I finished first on track. Regarding the incident, to be extremely honest with you, I was as surprised as I could have been to receive that penalty. I didn't feel like there was anything to be punished for. I've kept my racing line. I haven't moved twice. I defended. I was the car in front, and I was entitled to do that as the rules say. The penalty is frustrating, and it gets even more frustrating bearing in mind that last weekend in the Barcelona Feature Race, I had a five second penalty on the other side of the coin. I had exactly the same thing done to me, and I was forced off the track and failed to re-join safely. I looked at that, and I learned that if the line is using all the track, and you're the car in front, then you're entitled to do so. I have never touched or collided with Yuki, and I didn't really understand it. Unfortunately, as the rules go by, there's no way to do anything about a five second penalty. My job now is to analyse this incident, and the incident that happened two weeks before in Barcelona. To see the differences, understand it, learn from it. I'm only 21 years of age. I'm aiming to get to F1, and I think it's important to understand the Stewards point of view here. I might go and actually see them, because I think that the good relationships that we have had with the Stewards so far allow you, as a driver, to question things if you don't understand them. But again, I finished P2 with a five second penalty. I think that's still a good result. We are performing strongly weekend in, weekend out. The pace was good in Qualifying yesterday and the race pace was good as well. Unfortunately here, starting on the outside, even after a good start, because Turn is cambered it's very difficult to get ahead. I finished P2. There are things to be improved, there's things to be looked at. The penalty is frustrating because I like winning and that's what I'm here for. But I'm a driver. I do my job and the Stewards do theirs. You have to respect them for that.
FIA Formula 2: If we take the penalty out of it, you led a number of laps in the second half of that race. How was the race panning out from your perspective and how difficult was it when Yuki was closing in?
Nikita: As you know watching racing, there's a thing called the undercut. We did get Yuki by undercut. I've heard you say that he had a slow pit stop, which definitely played into our hands. But it was getting very difficult in the end because his tyres were fresher than mine. I did my job not to make a mistake, not to go off track, not to spin, and I defended. That's what every driver has to do. From that point of view, we started second, dropped to third after the start, recovered second, stayed second, went to first, led the race and won the race - from a driver's point of view. How it felt in the visor. It was very difficult for me after the finish because I didn't expect it. I hadn't been off track, I haven't touched anyone, and I didn't really know it was coming. Winning in Spa, winning for a friend of mine that I used to compete against on this track, and battling on track... It felt special to me. I have felt robbed of that win. It takes time to settle in, but nevertheless it is what it is.
FIA Formula 2: Thank you very much. Mick, moving on to you. Your fifth podium of the season, and back-to-back podiums for you. How was the race from your perspective?
Mick Schumacher: We got off the line brilliantly again. I think the starts have been super consistent, and consistently quick. Which is even better. I had a good position into Turn 1 and then after that the race settled. Basically, I got by the guys that had tyre deg in front like Nobuharu (Matsushita). I got by him quickly and after that my tyres were also degrading. I think the Virtual Safety Car helped to keep the tyres in, let's say, a reasonable shape for another few laps before the pit stop. We knew it would make sense to try and get rid of those as quickly as possible and put on the mediums. The pace of the medium was quite good. We were quite consistent compared to these guys in front. I'm not quite sure what happened on the front left, but those things happen and it's very difficult for mechanics. They train so hard trying to get those tyres on the car. I would love to try it myself, but they say no because the risk of breaking your ankle is quite big! It is a challenge, so credit to them. Those things happen. If that hadn't have happened, maybe we'd have been a bit further forward. Nevertheless, P3 is a really good position with good points, and great for the team.
FIA Formula 2: You were strong in the Feature Race in Spain and didn't quite get the result that maybe looked like it was on the cards. You've had podiums since then, and with Callum having a tough day today, do you feel like you've been brought right into the title mix?
Mick: We have to analyse now what happened exactly for all the guys around us. How their tyre deg was and whether things played into our hands or not. It's quite hard to talk about the Championship because it can change from weekend to weekend. You just need a good couple of races and you're back into business. It's the same for Yuki, who's got a strong amount of points now. The title fight is really open. For us now, the focus is on our performance. Try to understand and analyse what we could have done better today. With the knowledge we have from Barcelona, and from last year especially, the mix of that was very good for here and probably also for some of the tracks coming up soon.
FIA Formula 2: Thank you very much. Yuki, just returning to you. Mick say it's difficult to talk about the Championship, but I'm going to ask you about it as well. You're now only 11 points off the Championship lead, so does the pressure increase? Does your mindset change as you get closer to the front?
Yuki: I don't feel much pressure honestly. This year I didn't have a good start, I would say, for the Championship. I always set my mind as a challenger. I'm a challenger, and this year, especially being a rookie, is not the same situation as last year. It's a different car and different tyre. That also gives the experienced drivers a little bit less of an advantage. Even in the future, if I got P1 standing in the Championship, I'm going to always push until the end. I don't save any race, so I don't feel much pressure. I always push hard, like today, to be a Formula 1 driver. So, no pressure, just push until the end.