Enzo Fittipaldi couldn’t keep the smile off his face as he brought home his third podium of the 2022 Formula 2 campaign after an unexpected turn of events in Spielberg. The fight originally looked to be for points, as he lined up on the sixth row. Rolling the dice and bolting on the slick tyres for the start rather than the wets proved to be a brilliant gamble around a wet Red Bull Ring that was quickly drying.
Whilst his rivals struggled on the blue-walled Pirelli compound, Fittipaldi navigated a difficult opening few laps and early contact to dash up the order, finishing fourth at the chequered flag. While the Brazilian driver was elated at that result, a disqualification for race winner Richard Verschoor and a 20-second time penalty for Jehan Daruvala promoted Fittipaldi to the second step of the podium.
Speaking after the eventful race, he was overjoyed to have brought home another piece of silverware and relished conquering the challenging conditions.
“I'm very happy! It's very good points for the Championship. Obviously, this isn't the way I want to get a podium, but rules are rules at the end of the day. I just want to thank the team for the great work they have done all weekend for the Charouz Racing System car, we were fast, we put everything together and we came home with a lot of points.
“We started the race on slicks in tricky conditions, it was very hard. But we made the right choice, and in the end, we came out on top.”
Initially, things did not look to be going Fittipaldi’s way. The red, white, and blue Charouz found itself the wrong side of the white lines following contact with Hitech Grand Prix’s Jüri Vips, who was struggling to find grip and wet patches to keep his tyres alive.
Fortunately, he didn’t sustain any damage and Fittipaldi admits he found himself straining to balance all the different variables in the race and chose to play it safe by adopting a tentative approach – especially when it concerned track limits, which caught out third-place finisher Roberto Merhi in the closing stages.
READ MORE: Verschoor’s grid gamble pays off with Feature Race win
“It was very difficult because you were sliding around everywhere. The guys on the wet tyres were really slow at some point. I actually got hit off by two drivers, I think. I was ahead of Amaury Cordeel and Daruvala. Then Vips was trying to make Turn 6, but he had no grip and he just door banged me, and I went off and lost two positions.
“It was really hard to control the situation, to keep your nose clean and not get into any accidents or go over track limits. A lot of drivers were on their last chance. As funny as it sounds, it was really hard for some reason. I had to do the last two corners under the limit to keep it safe and not get a penalty.”
However, when it came to battling eventual race winner Logan Sargeant, Fittipaldi threw caution to the wind in his quest to catch up to the leading pack. Yet in spite of the multiple overtaking opportunities around the track, he couldn’t capitalise on the tow to get past the Carlin driver. Fittipaldi says it was a surprise and potentially cost him a maiden Formula 2 victory considering the post-race penalties elsewhere.
READ MORE: Verschoor disqualified from Spielberg Feature Race, Sargeant promoted to victory
“We had a good fight with Logan Sargeant, and we were definitely faster than him. It was just difficult to get him up into Turn 3. This was a hard track to overtake on in the dry, which I wasn't expecting. I thought it was going to be an easier track to overtake on, but the slipstream wasn't working that well this weekend.
“If we would have gotten past Sargent, I think we would have been able to get Daruvala in the last laps because I had that little bit more grip than him and I could see it. There was so much wash on the high-speed corners through Turns 6, 7 and 9 that I could never get close enough. There were one or two times that I got close enough into Turn 3, but he squeezed me a little bit wide there.”
Adding 19 points to his Championship tally courtesy of a double points weekend – he finished P8 in Saturday’s Sprint Race – might have boosted him up to fifth in the Drivers’ Standings, but Fittipaldi admits that his one lap form held him back from making the most of the Charouz’s promising race pace.
Looking ahead to the next round at Le Castellet in just over a week’s time, Fittipaldi is feeling optimistic that he can build on the Czech team’s momentum and the progress it has already made to put himself in the fight for the podium once again.
“I'm just a bit disappointed with my Qualifying this weekend because we had the pace to be in the top five. There are some improvements that we need to make, but I was happy to be able to show my pace in the races. I think we've done great this year. We have three podiums already under our belt and it's only been the first half of the season. Hopefully I can achieve a lot more podiums and potentially a win soon.”