Making the step-up to Formula 2 straight from Euroformula Open, Cem Bölükbaşı says he’s adopted a small steps approach to his rookie year, with the aim of “building myself up slowly.” That attitude will be especially key in Jeddah, which is known as the fastest street track on the calendar.
After Qualifying 20th, the Turkish racer went forward in both races, finishing 14th in the Sprint Race and 15th in the Feature Race.
Experiencing contrasting conditions in all four sessions, the opening round helped to build up Bölükbaşı’s confidence, which he says will be key to conquering the challenges of the unique Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
He explained: “In Bahrain, we went from a really hot afternoon, with a lot of fuel, to Qualifying in the evening, where we had a lot, lot more grip, so it was a tough transition. I loved it though and I really enjoyed Bahrain. For a first weekend, I would definitely take it.
“We have gained some good momentum, so I hope we can have a good weekend here in Jeddah, which will be my first street circuit. The plan now is to get lots of laps in and try and build myself up slowly - confidence is everything for street circuits.
“I will slowly try and get my pace up, without over-pushing. If you build up your pace slowly, you get more and more confident. If you have a moment where you lose confidence it sets you back, so it will be important to have a clean Free Practice session to get a baseline, and then from there, we can have a good Qualifying session.”
Making his first racing appearance at a Formula 1 Grand Prix in Sakhir, Bölükbaşı admitted that it was a “bit special,” but asserted that as much as he enjoyed it, his focus remains on how he can better himself in F2.
“It is hard not to enjoy a weekend like that, where you are racing on the same weekend as Formula 1,” he continued. “Most of the drivers in F2 have come up from Formula 3 so they already know the atmosphere of being in the support races, but it was a bit special for me.
“We just want to get into the top 10 positions as quickly as possible and then remain there, although it is really hard to say how the season will go. The top 10 is where the main action is because you are on the reverse grid and that means that you are always in the hunt. Our goal is to break into those top 10 positions, and I think we should be there soon.”
Signing with Charouz Racing System, the 24-year-old believes he’s got a team behind him who can help to get him up to speed and reach that goal.
“Atmosphere wise, it feels like a family to me,” he said. “I love spending time with them and my engineer and every other team member. The mechanics, engineers, everyone has been really helpful and understanding.
“We are going positively and if we can keep that up, which I think we can, we will have a good season.”