Joining reigning Teams’ Champions Carlin for the 2019 season, hopes were high for Louis Delétraz. Eyeing a title bid, the Swiss racer not only had machinery that came with clout, but he felt ready. Things didn’t quite work out like that though, through no fault of the team, or himself. Sometimes, things just don’t go how you expect them to – more often than not, that is down to bad luck, and Delétraz has endured his fair share this year.
In post-season testing though, things clicked. Back in the familiar surroundings of the Charouz garage, Delétraz topped two of the three days, and was the fastest overall. While he has been quick to point out that testing bears no points, it was a clear sign of his ability to deliver.
“It is great, it is a good feeling,” he elated. “It is only testing, but obviously I am happy, it is always nice to finish the year on top, but it is only testing, there are no points for that. I changed from Carlin to Charouz for testing and the car was a bit different - some positive and some weaker points, as always. That’s what we worked on, we worked on solving those weaker points and I think that is how we achieved the fastest lap time.
“The car felt great. I felt very strong at some points of the track - I cannot reveal everything because it would too easy to give away the good points, but the car felt really good. I drove for the team a year ago and it is still a similar feeling, although I think it the car has improved a little bit.
“I am pleased with the race simulation pace too. It is hard to compare with the others, because you never know who runs what fuel, and at what time of the day, but I am pretty sure everyone tried to do a lap time.”
Of course, testing is about far more than pace, and there’s a degree of selfishness from both sides. With line-ups to be finalised, drivers want to impress teams, and teams want to impress drivers.
Largely though, it is one final opportunity for everyone to assess their machinery this year. It provides the teams with a chance to tie up their development plans over winter and the drivers a chance to hone their skills ahead of a new season.
Discussing the work they completed over the three-days, Delétraz explained: “We worked on some understeer, we worked on the tyres and we worked to achieve the maximum mileage possible. We know that with the 18-inch tyres next year, we had to do a lot of work and analysing.
“We usually do performance runs in the morning, and then some analysis. Afternoon runs were more like race sims. We would put on new tyres and run some fast laps, then in the afternoon, use those new tyres, which have two laps on them, and do a race run.
“We had eight sets of tyres, which meant eight race runs and a lot of mileage over the tests. All of the procedural work is important as well. Every team has a different way of working: for the starts, for the race runs, for the communication, and we worked on that.”
Delétraz has yet to firm up his plans for 2020, but confirmed that the aim is to continue in Formula 2, if possible. Another year wiser, the Swiss driver will once again be aiming to challenge for a place at the top.
Although he did not finish where he would have liked to in 2019, eighth in the standings should prove to be a strong foundation, especially, with the top three all confirmed to depart F2.
“For sure, I am very happy with these tests,” he concluded. “Finishing first is always nice, of course, I'd rather it in a race, as opposed to testing, but yeah, I will live through the winter break as the fastest car over the three days - that is a very nice feeling and I am very happy with it.
“The next two weeks, before Christmas, I will take time off and be with my family. After that, I will start sport again and work on keeping in shape. I will work even harder than last year to get ready, before I sort out my 2020 plans, but hopefully, I will stay in Formula 2, that is what we are working for.
“I want to win, I am ready, and I will spend my winter working on this. Training, playing sports, working with a potential new team, and maybe some skiing too, after all, I am Swiss.
“Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year - thank you!”