Isack Hadjar kicked off his weekend in Sakhir in the best possible way, topping the first session of the 2024 season for Campos Racing.

The Frenchman’s 1:45.099 left him fastest overall in the session, 0.137s clear of MP Motorsport’s Franco Colapinto in P2 and with very positive feelings going into Qualifying later on.

Speaking after Practice, Hadjar said that while the start was positive, he was more enthused about the changes Campos had made between testing and the first round than their apparent success out on track.

“It was good, I mean as good as a Practice session can be on a set of the hard compound tyres, not amazing but the car felt good. I had a good feeling straight away here this weekend, so I think we have a really strong car for Qualifying.

“I was quite surprised with how close it was from testing. We’ve made some tweaks to the car since testing and those felt great so now, we’ll see.”

While the Campos driver was quickest in the midday session, Qualifying is set to take place with the sun setting in the sky and with track and air temperature falling.

It will make all the difference and that’s even before the consideration that everyone will be fitted with Pirelli’s soft compound tyres.

Ahead of Qualifying, Hadjar explained that the changes in conditions makes reading into Practice even more tricky but felt confident he and his team could carry their promising pace into the all-important half-hour session.

Hadjar believes Campos Racing are well placed to carry their Practice speed into Qualifying
Hadjar believes Campos Racing are well placed to carry their Practice speed into Qualifying

“You have an idea of if the car is ok and I think we have one this weekend, but obviously it’s completely different with the conditions. We’re going to go probably three seconds quicker than in Practice once we swap to the softs in better conditions.

“We’ll have to see if the order will be really different, but I think we’ll be in the fight that’s for sure.”

Another element that should count in his favour is the year of F2 experience he can now rely upon. Racing with Hitech Pulse-Eight in 2023, Hadjar now knows what to expect from all aspects of a Formula 2 race weekend.

He believes that the year of learning last year puts him in a great position going into the 2024 season and so far, it looks as though he is putting those prior experiences to good use.

“Things feel easier now. You can’t predict everything that’s going to happen, but you have an idea. Using the experience I’ve gained will be a key factor and that will give me a bit of an advantage.

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“This is a long Championship and as long as you make it inside the top 10 in Qualifying, you stand a good chance of scoring points in both races. I believe our race pace is looking good so a top 10 in Qualifying is mandatory.”

Campos also had a strong showing during testing and, as all of the teams and drivers continue their adaptation to the new 2024 F2 car. The Red Bull Junior Team driver says they have done well to acclimatise to the changes early on.

He also says that besides improved high-speed performance in corners, the familiarity he built up in 2023 is still relevant, with much of the car feeling the same so far.

“It’s not so different. We have the same tyres, same engine, and we’re at a similar weight. It’s just the new aerodynamics that make the car feel better in the high speed but the slow to medium speed corners feel relatively the same. So, it’s not a big change but they are good looking cars and I like them.”