He heads into the summer break with his Championship lead intact, but Felipe Drugovich is under no illusion that he is a man under pressure from rivals behind. A tough Feature Race in Budapest meant his points advantage shrunk to 21 as Théo Pourchaire clawed back vital ground on the MP Motorsport driver.
An aggressive race strategy from the MP team had Drugovich in the pits before anyone else which ultimately ended up costing him a stronger points-finish on the day.
“It was quite disappointing. I started P3, didn’t get the best of starts but it was ok. Probably not the best Turn 1 either, fell back to P4 and pitted quite early. Because of that my tyres were destroyed by the end of the race. We didn’t use the tyres very well and the pace was quite poor towards the end. A big mistake from us but it’s something to learn from and hopefully we bounce back stronger.”
MP has been one of the standout teams so far this year when it comes to strategy. Its efforts in Barcelona for example, where Drugovich coaxed his tyres to the end to win handily from Jack Doohan after starting P10 in the Feature Race, are a shining example of the team getting it right on the pit wall.
This time though, another aggressive route on strategy did not pay off in the same vein. Swapping the softs for the mediums at the earliest opportunity on lap 7 pulled his rivals into the pits to cover off a potential undercut.
Unfortunately for the Brazilian, warm-up issues prevented any chances of converting his strategic step into track position. It has left the team with a potential headache to sort ahead of the return to racing later this month.
“With the strategy, we went aggressive mostly because I had good pace on the softs and I was kind of boxed in behind (Ayumu) Iwasa. I wanted to try something and see if I could undercut them, but the tyre temperature was really low, and I didn’t manage to do it which was a shame. “I think the idea wasn’t too bad, it was just that the temperature was really low so it was difficult to generate tyre temperature in the mediums.
“I thought the tyres would come back near the end, but they didn’t. I never thought I was going to keep the whole race without sliding around. I managed to see in the second lap out of the pits that the tyres were going off, but that’s normal. Usually, they come back once the graining phase has gone away but this time that didn’t happen. It’s something to analyse.”
As a result, rival Pourchaire has taken a big chunk of points out of Drugovich heading into the summer break. The Brazilian’s points total of 180 is no longer the comfortable buffer it might have been following the ART Grand Prix driver’s Budapest victory that lifted him onto 159.
The first opportunity to hit back will come at Spa-Francorchamps, a circuit that Drugovich is looking forward to tackling once again. There will be plenty of work between now and then to rectify the issues that the team faced, and the Brazilian is targeting a statement result to steady the ship at the top of the standings.
“The break comes nicely for me. I think that in the last four races we didn’t have an amazing pace like in the races before. We just need to regroup and put together what we were doing not so well and I’m pretty sure we can do a step forward with this break. I’m pleased with the chance to have a break, but I wanted to go into it with more of a points gap. But anyway, I shouldn’t look too much at that, I should focus on having better pace and better races.
“Spa is a great track. Probably one of the best Qualifying’s we’ve had back in 2020. The track should suit the car pretty well. We just need to wait and see a little bit how it might play out. But I’m happy and it’s always an amazing opportunity to drive at Spa.”