THOUGHTS FROM MAZEPIN, GHIOTTO AND DELÉTRAZ
FIA Formula 2: Hello and welcome to the press conference with the top three finishers in today's FIA Formula 2 Feature Race here at Mugello. We are joined by race winner Nikita Mazepin for Hitech Grand Prix, in second place is Luca Ghiotto, also for Hitech Grand Prix, and third is Louis Delétraz for Charouz Racing System. Nikita, your second Feature Race win, and in a thriller. Did you think it would be that action-packed and that you'd have chances coming your way on the alternate strategy?
Nikita Mazepin: To be very honest with you, if I've learned one thing this year it's not to really expect anything. I've had very good results taken away from me. I've had very bad results turn into good ones, so I think the key point of being a Formula 2 driver is just focusing on doing your job, and analysing afterwards where you've ended up. This race, I have to say, exceeded any sort of expectations that even built up without me being conscious of them. Starting P14 after a disappointing Qualifying at a track I've never been to before, I knew the race was going to be tough. I'm sure we all read the same comments on the internet, that this track doesn't have many overtaking spots, and I want to do good, like in any race. To be able to really go out there and improve so many positions in pretty enjoyable circumstances, being on newer tyres compared to cars around me on the alternative strategy, was just fantastic. It paid off. I won my second race, but I want to say it's not the second but one number more - in terms of finishing on track of course. It's just great. I'm extremely happy for the team. Every time I've been talking to you, I've always been saying that it's a great result for me, but I feel a very big part of this team. From the very beginning of when it started racing in F2. For us to be able to finish one-two shows that every single person in this team has done a fantastic job. This just makes me super happy.
FIA Formula 2: I'm sure there were a few hearts in mouths for the team when you were fighting Luca on that second Safety Car restart. Just talk us through that, and the first one when you made up so many positions as well.
Nikita: I was barely breathing in both of them. First of all, this track is a very physically demanding circuit. I'm not going to lie, I'm still a little bit tired. Not only because of corner speeds and steering, but also because I didn't want to make a mistake. Especially at the last Safety Car restart. Me and Luca are teammates and good friends, and I'm pretty sure that he wasn't aware that there were two cars on the inside, not just one. I was sure he was going to hit that apex, so I was very conscious of his car there. Luckily, we've made it through, and I've managed to get into P1 and use my tyres to leave the pack.
FIA Formula 2: Congratulations, well done today. Luca, moving on to you. As Nikita just said, a Hitech one-two, and you had to get really defensive at the end of that race. Just how tough was it from your point of view?
Luca Ghiotto: It was really tough! It was tough, let's say, just on the pure race-side at the end because I had to defend quite a lot. But it was also tough on a mental side because I was quite frustrated. Especially on the radio after the first Safety Car. When you do everything perfectly, everything from the start to the pit stop, we were in a good position to overtake (Christian) Lundgaard before the Safety Car. Then the Safety Car happened, and your chance of winning is basically gone because the guys on the alternative strategy are going to be much faster than you. At that moment, I was not really thinking about finishing on the podium. I was already prepared to not finish here. I was just prepared to defend myself as much as I could and try to get the maximum result possible. I'm actually surprised to be here and to be able to defend from the cars behind me on the options. I don't know if I could have defended from Nikita, because that situation with three cars going side-by-side into Turn 1 was not good for me because I was the car on the outside. It was not helpful. I don't know if in a different situation I would have been leading after Turn 1, but still, it would have been almost impossible to keep him behind looking at how fast he was. Overall, it's still a good result. As I said, I didn't expect to finish here after what happened, but it's a good result for the team. We finished first of both strategies, so I think honestly, today we would have won anyway. Nikita won using the other strategy, and I think honestly today I had the chance to win without the Safety Car. We've proved that our car is fast here, and that's really good for us.
FIA Formula 2: As you said, for a lot of the guys that were on the harder compound under those Safety Car restarts, they dropped right away. Why do you think you were able to hold on better than anyone else?
Luca: I don't really know. Out of the box I was pushing quite hard. I overtook (Dan) Ticktum quite soon, and I was not really saving so much. I was actually surprised to still be in good shape with the tyres at the end, compared to who was on the same strategy of course. I don't know where Lundgaard and the others finished, but I saw they were struggling quite a lot. It's been tough. Honestly, it's been really tough. For me, the second Safety Car helped a little bit, because the guys on the options would have made a bigger difference without the second Safety Car for sure. The first didn't help, but the second one did. That one made it a little bit less difficult, but it was still probably one of the hardest races I've done. I'd say it's the best defence I've had to do in my career, to keep this second place.
FIA Formula 2: Christian lost a few more positions and ended up P6 after that final restart. Louis, just moving on to you. A lovely move for third place on the final lap there. Just how happy are you with your first Feature Race podium of the season?
Louis Delétraz: I'm very happy with the result. It's clearly not expected. We had some troubles in Quali. I got blocked, so we got robbed of a top five start which is never helpful at a track where you can't overtake. I had a terrible start today and lost a lot of positions. I think we were back down to 19th at some point. When I got told on the radio, I was like, "okay, this is going to be one of those days where it's not going to be great." We were on strategy, so I was saving and saving, passing cars with less degradation on my side. When the Safety Car came out, I thought that was our chance actually. On the restart I think I passed five or six cars in Turn 1, and then the last move on (Felipe) Drugovich around the outside. I almost got Luca, but I had to back out to avoid some contact. I'm still happy with third. It's still very good points. The fastest lap too. I definitely didn't expect it, so thanks to the team for that.
FIA Formula 2: You say it's a place where you can't overtake, but we did see a lot of overtaking in the end. Were you surprised it was easier, even on the soft tyre, and was it exciting then knowing you were restarting on those softs?
Louis: It was very exciting. I think if there was no Safety Car, when I was behind Nikita, we'd have been close to make it into the top eight. But that's not guaranteed. When the Safety Car comes and the other guys on worn hard tyres, and you're on pretty much new softs, the delta is quite big. I think I did the fastest lap out of the box. 1.33-something if I'm correct. I'm not sure, but the other cars were doing 36 or 37. A three-second gap on a track where you can't overtake, and suddenly there's possibilities. That's what happened, and I was actually surprised by how Luca could keep the pace up, because I didn't get many opportunities on that last lap. He did pretty well on that.
FIA Formula 2: I think you did a 33.9 out of the box, and you got the fastest lap points because Guanyu Zhou retired from the race. Nikita, just returning to you. This result puts you right in the heart of the Championship fight now. Is it exciting, looking at the way this season's shaping up?
Nikita: It's definitely exciting for the fans. I think it keeps us drivers very intense. I'm very happy to hear you saying that I'm right up there, but I'm sure everyone feels exactly the same. I had a few unfortunate results, like in Barcelona, then Belgium, which cost me some points. Then, I don't think we were on for a podium or a win in Monza but dropping out of the top eight when I had a technical issue to retire me was painful. Anything can happen. We as a team, I as myself, try and do the best we can. I'm going to sit down with you in three rounds and hopefully talk about where we end up. At the moment, it's living day by day, it's enjoying every day, and I'm just so grateful to be up here in P1 once again. It's fantastic.