It was a mixed weekend last time out in Melbourne for Jak Crawford. The Hitech Pulse-Eight driver scored his maiden Formula 2 podium in the Sprint Race but was out in the early stages in Sunday’s Feature.
The American driver has been scoring better results with every round so far this season, and that’s a feeling he has in the car as well. After achieving his first rostrum appearance in the Championship, Crawford says that his confidence is at a new high despite his DNF in the Australian Feature event.
“It feels nice to get enough to podium especially so early in the season. I think it's really good to have for the rest of the year and it definitely brings a lot of confidence. I think we struggled to understand where we were in the first few rounds and finally, we had good speed and that result - the podium definitely brings a lot of confidence for me as well as the team. But of course, we also need to score points in the Feature Races as well, because that's where the big points are.”
His reverse grid pole in Jeddah and front row start for the Saturday race in Melbourne is evidence of the team and driver’s improved speed since the start of the season. Crawford believes that the pace has always been good so far with Hitech, but it has been about unlocking that pace as he builds up his early season speed.
With 2023 being his rookie season in the Championship, Crawford and his fellow rookies have had a lot of new tracks to learn in the early part of the campaign. The American says that with so many new tracks presenting early season hurdles for him, the learning process in F2 had been longer than he’d initially hoped. That does mean that there is still more performance to come though.
“With only three days in the pre-season for testing, I was still learning things and even in Melbourne I was still learning things. I think I’ve got to a good point where I'm up to speed now but it has been a learning process, especially in Bahrain and Jeddah, which are two very different tracks from each other.
“I’ve also had to start the year learning new tracks in Jeddah, Melbourne and now here in Baku, so it's definitely a challenge but I'm now feeling comfortable with the team and with the car so we should just keep moving forward now.”
With the Baku City Circuit being the third new circuit to learn and the third street circuit across the four Rounds so far, Crawford has another tough task on his hands. Having qualified inside the top 10 in Jeddah and Melbourne, the Hitech driver arrives in Azerbaijan with high expectations.
Along with learning another high-speed street circuit, Crawford and co will be driving the Baku streets after they have been freshly resurfaced ahead of the 2023 race weekend. Nobody knows what to predict in terms of tyre life which could play to the rookie’s advantage. Keeping out of trouble will be priority one.
“I really like street circuits. I felt like I’ve had some good performances so far even though we didn't really have the pace. Melbourne of course, we were super quick and this is a bit of a different street course compared to the others. Baku is a bit slower speed compared to Jeddah and Melbourne so it’ll bring a new challenge for us. But, Hitech has been quick here last year and in previous years so I have no doubt that we can be competitive.
“It's gonna be tough, especially in Free Practice. Usually and in the cases of Jeddah, and Melbourne, we weren’t the first on track. But here we're going to be the first on track for FP, so the track will be really dusty and mistakes will be easy to make.
“It'll be just about learning the track and building up as much knowledge as possible. I know it can be a bit crazy around here in terms of Safety Cars, Red Flags, etc, so we'll be looking to keep our nose clean. We don't know what to expect from the new surface until we drive it, we can only make predictions. Hopefully, it'll bring a bit more grip or maybe it'll make the track less grippy, who knows.”
While the Melbourne weekend will have stung during the four-week break, Crawford is looking to get back into the points at the first time of asking. Top 10 finishes in both events would be a great way to bounce back and get crucial points on the board. Ensuring he is in the mix however before the lights go out in either race is something he feels is well within his and the team’s capabilities this weekend between the walls around Baku.
“I’d love another podium this weekend, but I think I'd like a good Qualifying session first. I think in Melbourne, I was very unlucky and although ninth seems like a decent result, I think I could have been in the top five easily. So that was quite unfortunate. I’m just looking for to qualify up near the front and I think scoring big in the Feature Race is what I need to do.”