Points on his Feature Race debut in Sakhir wasn’t enough to entirely satisfy Isack Hadjar last time out. This weekend in Jeddah, the Hitech Pulse-Eight rookie wants stronger results, and believes he and his team are more than capable of them.
Racing around one of the toughest and fastest tracks on the calendar, Hadjar isn’t expecting an easy time of it. But, after having some time to reflect on his maiden weekend in Formula 2, the Frenchman is confident that there is pace in hand to unleash around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit this weekend.
Though his Qualifying in Bahrain was not what he had dreamt up the night before, the recovery in the Feature Race has given him a confidence boost heading into Round 2.
“Sakhir was quite disappointing. I expected more based on Qualifying, but it was quite a close one. The positive is that I was quite close from the top three, 14th is just not ideal on the grid. But we had a stronger Feature Race to end up in the points was nice. We just lacked a bit of pace the whole weekend, but now we know why.
“I think strategy is something we did right in the Feature Race. Going for the alternative strategy worked out pretty well. So, I think that was the strongest point of the first weekend.”
While he is stepping into unknown territory in terms of the venue for the second round of the season, the immediate surroundings in the Hitech Pulse-Eight garage are very familiar to him.
Having almost won the Formula 3 title last season with the team, Hadjar’s F2 promotion brings with him some home comfort on the personnel front. Working together for a year with several members of the Hitech crew means that Hadjar has expediated the learning process in some areas. That also has meant expectations at this early stage of the season are rising.
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“I know a lot of the team already, it's the nearly the same people I've been working on since F3. So, it definitely helps, I don't feel like I'm in a new team, it was great.
“The aim for now is just to get into the at least the top 10 in Qualifying. Then, to score in both races and then why not a Feature Race podium.”
Jeddah presents an altogether different challenge for the drivers versus the first race weekend of the year. While the Bahrain International Circuit is a rear-limited and tyre-deg-heavy track, Jeddah’s sweeping corners and long straights means that errors are punished harshly with the barriers so close.
It’s a prospect Hadjar says a driver cannot prepare for entirely until they venture out onto circuit for the first time in reality for Free Practice.
“Apart from the simulator, you can’t too much. You just prepare yourself mentally to go that fast through these walls, it feels scary to be honest, but I’m really looking forward to it. “The first sector looks awesome. Really high-speed corners, no time for rest and the smallest mistake will mean you compromise all that section. So sector one will be key, I’m really looking forward to that.”
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Even with the tight confines of a street circuit, three DRS zones means that drivers will be sticking within touching distance of one another during the races.
There has been plenty of action in past races around the circuit, and the Frenchman is eager to get going around such a unique street circuit and venue.
“With all these really long straights, I think we've seen that in the past overtaking here is definitely possible. So that's good. The only time I went on a street circuit before was in Monaco, and I won. So if you consider this one a street circuit, I’m looking ok.”