Louis Delétraz is part of a very select group of drivers to be in possession of a SuperLicense, the golden ticket that grants you entry into the ‘chocolate factory’ that is Formula 1. But, being allowed to step up, and actually being ready, are two vastly different things, and after a season of frustration, the Swiss racer knows this.
A promising debut campaign can lead to a lot of emphasis being placed on that second season. This type of expectation can often weigh heavy on a driver’s shoulders, despite the numerous examples of racers making it into F1 after three, or even four years of F2 – drivers develop at different rates. Bad luck can often play a huge part as well, and it most definitely has with Delétraz.
His second season wasn’t a poor one by any standards: a race win may have eluded him, but there were three podiums in there, and he eventually finished in eighth place, with 18 more points than in 2018. Ultimately though, six retirements throughout the year curtailed his season and cost him the opportunity to fight at the front. The Championship’s winner, Nyck de Vries, averaged more than a podium per-round, which shows how heavily DNF’s can hurt you.
“The team estimated that around 80 points were lost due to failures and problems and that would have put me fifth of the Championship,” he said. “That’s where I wanted to be. I don't want to blame anyone, because it does happen - it's shit, but it does happen. We had the speed though, and for me that means that it was a good year.”
There’s a strong air of positivity around Delétraz. The Swiss racer is mature enough to understand that there will be kinks in the road. He doesn’t take things for granted and strives to constantly evolve and improve himself as both a driver and as a person. There’s no sulking, no finger pointing, just a hunger to move onto the next race and go again – that’s a rarity in motorsport
He continued: “I think that in a season like this, with the problems we had, one of my strengths is that I don't blame people or things, I just switch to the next event. When you keep having issues, that is not easy to do, to just switch and focus on the next one.
One of my strengths is that I don't blame people or things, I just switch to the next event.
“In terms of performance this year, we have been quite happy, but we haven’t been in terms of results. I think that I’ve finished outside of the points ten times and many of those are because of DNFs in race one and then starting from the back at race two.
“In racing that can happen, and unfortunately, it happened to me a lot this year, but what can you do? On a positive note, every time we didn't have a problem, we were pretty much on the podium - Monaco, Silverstone, Sochi. I think that the speed was there, but it just wasn't our year.”
As is always the case with Delétraz, there has been no dwelling on what could have been and attention has already moved on to the new season. The Swiss racer was amongst the first to organise his drive for 2020, returning to Charouz Racing system - his F2 team from 2018.
The signs have already been positive too. Delétraz topped two of the three days of post-season testing in December at Abu Dhabi and appeared to be thriving back in familiar surroundings. He has then been able to return home to Switzerland over the winter, where he has enjoyed some much-needed downtime, which has included skiing and go-karting.
The Swiss racer will also have been undergoing a rigorous training programme as he looks to evolve again and learn from the harsh lessons that 2019 taught him. He will be looking to find the type of consistency that will allow him to challenge at the top of the Championship and has also stated his desire to find that “extra tenth” of a second in Qualifying - he is yet to secure a pole in F2, despite going close on numerous occasions.
He continued: “I think that I have improved as a driver, as has my understanding of the Pirelli tyres, which is a big thing. I didn’t have the season I expected, to make the jump to F1, but that is still the aim. I still have the super license and I am ready to jump in anytime. F1 is still the goal.
“Very few drivers have that licence - this licence is everything, if you don't have it, you don't go. It's simple. I have had it for two years and I will have it again in 2020. If I was to get the call for whatever reason, I can jump in. It is only an A4 piece of paper, but it is worth a lot.”
The Super Licence will be worth its weight in gold as he heads into the new campaign, as he prepares to fight at the front with Charouz Racing System.