Felipe Drugovich says he chose to stay safe and keep himself out of trouble in the frenetic Le Castellet Sprint Race in order to secure another solid haul of points in third and strengthen his Championship position.
After lining up fifth on the grid, the MP Motorsport driver was immediately in the thick of it as battles for the podium positions unfolded around him. Going wheel-to-wheel with eventual winner Liam Lawson off the line proved costly as Drugovich headed across the kerbs at Turn 2, leaving him vulnerable to title rival Théo Pourchaire. The Frenchman managed to get the jump on him around the opening sequence of corners at the Paul Ricard Circuit to move up into fourth.
Sitting pretty in fifth throughout much of the race, the Brazilian drove a consistent and calm race. Despite a late push to catch up to the black and white ART Grand Prix car towards the conclusion of the race, Drugovich decided not to risk a move. This proved to be a wise decision from the Championship leader, given that moments earlier he’d witnessed Marcus Armstrong’s duelling backfire, dropping the Hitech Grand Prix driver off the podium and out of the points.
Armstrong’s battle with Pourchaire saw the Frenchman penalised after the race, promoting Drugovich onto the podium. Nevertheless, he believes that an even better result could have been on the cards if he hadn’t lost positions on the opening lap.
“The start was good,” he summarised. “I think if it wasn't for the first lap, it could have been a different race, but we can always say that so no crying around. I think I just took it and after that it was alright. I would say it was a good race.
“I was just watching; I didn’t want to attack. I was just cruising around trying to stay safe and brought the points home.”
One major dilemma hangs over all the teams moving into Sunday’s Feature Race – what tyre strategy is the right one to choose? Fortunately for Drugovich, his teammate Clément Novalak was one of four drivers who opted to run the soft Pirelli tyres the whole 21-lap race distance, giving the Brazilian driver the benefit of additional data on how the option compound might hold up and how they can factor that into their pit stop strategy.
Given their pace, Drugovich is feeling confident that he can make the most of his car’s potential starting from sixth, as long as he isn’t held up in another queue of cars again.
“I think strategy might play quite well into the race. The pace today (Saturday) was good, but at the same time there was a DRS train. It’s never so pleasant to drive when there’s a DRS train, you can never do much more than the others. Based on today, I think we have a good chance tomorrow (Sunday).”
Drugovich’s consistency has been the backbone of his campaign, having scored in all but two races this season. With 17 races down and 10 to go, and with a healthy 42-point advantage over his nearest rival Logan Sargeant, the long-time Championship leader admitted thoughts of bringing home the title are beginning to creep into his head, but he’s not allowing himself to run away with those dreams just yet given how quickly fortunes can change.
“For sure, I'm thinking about it! At the same time, I think these last few rounds haven’t been amazing for me, so the less I think about it, the better it is. We just try to focus on our job and do the best we can.”