Smiling, propped up against a stone wall overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Nobuharu Matsushita looks at ease in Monte Carlo. Comfortable in the surroundings of the familiar scenery of the Formula 2 paddock, he feels like he is back where he belongs.

After a year away, when he competed in the Japanese Super Formula series with Dandelion, Matsushita is back in F2 with last year’s Championship winning team, Carlin. Armed with a fresh sense of purpose, the 25-year-old still harbours his ambition of becoming the first Japanese F1 driver since Kamui Kobayashi.

“This is the best place to come to reach F1,” he asserts. “I enjoy racing against drivers like Luca Ghiotto and other experienced drivers who are really quick. I like this Championship, it is really difficult, but positive.

“Our goal is F1 so we are fighting for that and this is the best place to fight for that, so I am really happy to be back. For the moment, I am still fighting for the Formula 1 dream.”

The 25-year-old was talking in the aftermath of his best result since returning to the Championship, having finished on the podium in third place, in the Monaco Feature Race.

It was the type of result which he has threatened to deliver on numerous occasions already this season, particularly in Baku, where had qualified on pole. However, mechanical issues would rob him of his Feature Race in Azerbaijan.

“Monaco is one of my favourite tracks, so it is fantastic to be on the podium for sure and then I took the fastest lap as well, so I’m really happy. It was chaotic but we had a calm race, so I am really thankful to the team.”

The Japanese driver is arguably as relaxed as he has ever been in F2. He swapped ART for Carlin. While both teams have been hugely successful in motorsport, he has been pleased with the setup of the Surrey based outfit.

“I found out shortly after Abu Dhabi in 2018 that I would sign with them,” he recalled. “They are different compared to ART. ART is a top team with a top car, but they are more systematic. To me, Carlin are more precise, more structured the way I like it.”

The switch to Carlin was accompanied by a move to England. Situated just outside of London, in the northwest of Surrey, Woking now plays home to Matsushita, who has settled into British life well. A cycling enthusiast, Matsushita enjoys biking around the area with friends.

“I am really enjoying living in the UK,” he continued. “I am really happy. I like cycling with my friends and my team. My engineers like mountain biking too, so we are having fun.

“I am really happy to be here and to be working with such a high level of racing guys, like those at Carlin and ART, I am really happy. It is such a big gap compared to Japan.”

The 25-year-old is one of the most experienced drivers on the F2 circuit and hopes that will pay off throughout a long and testing campaign at the wheel.

“I started racing when I was four: I went to the Suzuka Grand Prix with my father and was fascinated by Michael Schumacher, so I then started to race. I am 25-year-old now, so I have already had a 21-year racing career laughs – I am still chasing my dream.”

Matsushita will continue to chase that dream when the cars return to the track in France next week.