FIA Formula 2: Hello, and welcome to the press conference following qualifying ahead of the FIA Formula 2 Championship feature race in Azerbaijan. In first place, pole position for Alexander Albon of DAMS, in second is Lando Norris of Carlin, and third is George Russell of ART Grand Prix. Alexander, your first pole position at this level. How good does that feel? We heard you laughing on the team radio, you must be delighted.
Alexander Albon: Well, it was basically because I made a mistake! But it was before the lap so it doesn’t really count, but I knew that the car was really good and after the first run I felt quite confident with it. There were a couple of things that I needed to change with my driving, but I knew that if I just got a bit of clean air – it was messy with all the traffic – that I could do a pretty good lap. I got lucky with my position, there was no-one behind me and no-one in front of me so I could just focus on the driving, and then yeah, it was a really surprising pole to be honest, I didn’t really think it was…I thought I would maybe be pipped by Lando, George or Ghiotto. I’m really happy, happy for the team as well, they trusted me at the start of the year so this is for them, really.
FIA Formula 2: You said on team radio that you think the team will laugh when they see the data. Is that referring to the error on the first part of the lap?
Alexander: Yeah, exactly, it’s just a stupid thing, something that all drivers...I don’t really want to say, it’s embarrassing!
FIA Formula 2: It’s okay, you can tell us…
George Russell: He forgot to open DRS at the start of the lap.
Alexander: laughs I was a bit late, yeah! Look at this guy, I shouldn’t have told him…but yeah, it was a silly mistake and I was beating myself up for it during the first two corners, but obviously focused and yeah…I'm really happy!
FIA Formula 2: Congratulations. Lando, moving onto you. It’ll be a front-row start for you tomorrow, but do you think that pole was on the cards today?
Lando Norris: Yeah, if I put it all together I definitely think so! I think it’s still a good starting position, although I don’t think it matters so much here in Baku. Yeah, second I’m still happy with, I think potentially the car was good enough for pole, but I made a couple of mistakes or didn’t drive as well as I should have done, which maybe could have cost me P1. But I’m still happy in second.
FIA Formula 2: It was your teammate who was quickest in practice, and now you’re the lead Carlin in qualifying. Did you have to make a lot of changes to get the car the way you liked it ahead of that session?
Lando: Not too many really, most of the time between Sergio and me was just in confidence, in high-speed and braking zones, which I think is expected for a rookie or someone coming here for the first time. That’s all I had to focus on, just basically the braking, and obviously it paid off – going from P6 in practice to P2 now. A lot of it is just confidence in Baku, and every lap I got more confident and gained time because of it.
FIA Formula 2: Thank you. George, coming to you. It was quite a disjointed practice session with a lot of yellow flags and virtual safety cars. Are you pleased with the top 3 or did you feel more was possible from qualifying?
George Russell: Again, similar to Lando, it’s my first time coming here so I didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, I was just building up the confidence throughout. Going into qualifying I was confident in the car, but I knew that there was more in me after practice and that I just needed a clean session like you said – with all of the yellow flags, we just needed to get a lap in. We managed to do that with the second set of tyres. I think there was more in there, we had a bit of a risky strategy and went with a bit more downforce to try and catch the driver ahead and take the slipstream at the end of the lap. But I misjudged the timing of the car ahead of me and ended up not gaining anything on the straight and using more downforce than we probably needed. But overall I’m happy, and like Lando said, pole around here doesn’t really matter – as long as you’re in the top fifteen then anything can happen, really.
FIA Formula 2: How do you approach the race now, does it help that it’s a shorter run to Turn 1 than it was in Bahrain?
George: Well, we were talking about this before; if the start’s like it was in Bahrain then it’ll be a Carlin 1-2 again and me and Alex might be well down the grid! I think that we’ve improved on that since, and as you said, there’s a much shorter run and less risk you need to take to try and get a perfect start. Even if you make an average to poor start, you can maintain positions. And like we saw with Giovinazzi in 2016, he was last at one point and he came around to win. So anything can happen, and until the chequered flag flag comes out it doesn’t really matter which position you’re in. It’s all up for grabs.
FIA Formula 2: Finally Alex, coming back to you. Starting from pole position, what do you see as the key to converting that into a race win in a place where we’ve seen some unpredictable racing?
Alexander: First thing is just to get off the line, that’s the number one priority for us! But as George said it’s very easy to overtake so it’s not necessarily about your pure pace, the straight is so long here and we saw in 2016 how unpredictable the races can be. Tyre management is still important, although maybe less so than Bahrain, but just keeping a cool head and staying out of trouble – that’s it really.
FIA Formula 2: This is the second consecutive race that we’ve had you three sat there after qualifying. Do you look either side of you and see two title rivals sitting there?
Alexander: I think they were always title rivals before Bahrain. Obviously, these guys are the up-and-coming British superstars so I have to try and put my nose in there. But yeah, it’s good to be up there with them.