Casting his mind back to this time last year, Théo Pourchaire finds himself in a near identical situation, knowing that Formula 2’s return to Budapest has the potential to transform his Championship fight. The ART Grand Prix driver put himself one step closer to regaining the lead in the Standings, fighting through from P7 to P4 in the Sprint Race and cutting Frederik Vesti’s advantage to just a single point.

Once again demonstrating his overtaking prowess, the Frenchman showed complete confidence behind the wheel and says that he’s satisfied to have made it work despite the Hungaroring’s reputation for being difficult to find opportunities around.

“It was a great race! For sure, finishing P4 from P7 is always great on a track where it’s very tough to overtake. I had a great start, overtook one or two cars on the first lap and then, I did a great late braking move on Maini. I also overtook Bearman on the Virtual Safety Car restart, he finished P3, just in front of me after a tight move. It’s good info for tomorrow on the car balance, tyre degradation and hopefully, we can do a great race.”

One move in particular was both a stroke of genius and the utilisation of all the experience he has under his belt from two previous campaigns in Formula 2. Waiting for the Virtual Safety Car to be withdrawn on Lap 13, Pourchaire caught Oliver Bearman by surprise. Pouncing on the PREMA Racing driver the moment the green flag was waved, the Sauber Academy junior dived down the inside into Turn 2 for third.

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Nailing the overtake right down to the millisecond, Pourchaire stressed the importance of timing the move to perfection and putting the reaction times that he frequently tests in his pre-session warmup into practice.

“I don’t know what they were doing in front of me, but we have the delta on the steering wheel, and I tried to be at the limit and that’s what I did. I saw an opportunity; he missed the restart and I overtook him into Turn 2, which was great. I felt very good inside the car. It’s important, it’s my third season in F2, I’m still one of the youngest, but I have a bit of experience now so I know how to manage those kinds of things.”

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Brimming with optimism for Sunday’s Feature Race, he’s confident that he and ART have put together a solid package that he can extract to its complete potential. Taking what he’s learnt across the 28 laps of action today, he believes that he can recreate his lightning getaway off the line from last year and go one better right up into the lead from fourth.

“First of all, the start was good today so we know what to do for the start tomorrow. It’s very important here as it’s tough to overtake. I remember starting from P4 last year, I did a really great start and was P2. So, if I can do even better and be P1 after Turn 2 that would be amazing, but I cannot do the race before the race – that’s what we say every time here.

“We know tyre degradation is very important. It’s not that high, but it’s important to take care of the tyres and the car. Car balance was good, I just need to improve my driving a bit in some areas. Tomorrow the strategy will be important, the pit stop and the out lap, so it will be a different race.”

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However, that path includes going toe-to-toe with his Championship rival Vesti on the second row, with the Dane starting alongside him in third. Likening his approach to the weekend to the battle for the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, Pourchaire is a driver on the hunt and impatient to return to the top step for the first time since the Sakhir Feature Race at the start of the season.

“Today starting from the paddock to go to the F1 pit lane, I was just behind Fred and in my head, I was thinking this situation is like the Tour de France. He’s the man with the yellow jersey and I’m right behind him. I’m Tadej Pogacar and he’s Jonas Vingegaard – he’s Danish. So, I need to be right behind him and as soon as I feel great, I need to do a great race, take a lot of points from him and tomorrow can be a great opportunity.

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“He’s really fast. He’s starting P3, so he will have his focus on me for sure, trying to stay in front. I will just try to focus on myself. I really want to get back into first place, I really want to win again, I miss the feeling."

When asked whether this weekend could be a turning point in his Championship, he’s got an unshakable belief in himself that he’s got what it takes to make it happen.

“I’m sure it can be. Starting P4 again. I want the same ending to the Budapest weekend as last year. I think it’s possible. We need a bit of luck, but I also need to go a great job, I’m sure I’m capable of doing that.”