It was a case of what could have been for Jack Doohan in the Melbourne Feature Race. Whilst he was satisfied to have added four points to his tally, the Invicta Virtuosi Racing driver says the early race incident with Jak Crawford cost him a shot at getting into the mix for the final podium spot.
Starting down in P15 after getting caught out in the drenched Qualifying session on Friday, the Alpine junior had made it up to P11 by Lap 7. However, contact with the Hitech Pulse-Eight driver left him with a puncture, forcing him to box twice behind the first Safety Car to swap back on to the medium tyres.
Surrendering track position and dropping down to P20 was a frustrating turn of events, but Doohan managed to climb back up to P14 by the time the Safety Car made a second appearance on Lap 26. He kept himself out of trouble on the restart to climb back up into the points.
“I’m pleased to bring back points, four points is better than none,” the Australian summarised. “I think we were really fast on Sunday before the contact happened with Jak (Crawford), we were making good moves. Obviously, we were not the first person starting on the primes, so it was important that we made our way through the pack.
“When I got past Jak, only Fred (Vesti) was in front and I think we had better pace than him at the time, but after that contact with Jak I had a slow rear left puncture which is why I had to double stop. Obviously, I wasn’t going to be able to make it the full distance on the softs, so I had to just do one lap on them and then go back on to the prime, which cost me a lot of track position and really hurt us on strategy. Then I had a bit of luck, some things happened, and we ended up eighth. It was obviously very hectic, but I was happy to get a couple of points.”
Ultimately, Doohan finished six-tenths behind seventh-placed Richard Verschoor and just under a second adrift of Jehan Daruvala in sixth. Fellow alternative strategy runner Frederik Vesti narrowly missed out on a podium in fourth.
Had the early Safety Car not gifted those on the soft tyres effectively a free stop, Doohan believes that the potential was there to close in on the leading pack. Yet considering how insurmountable the odds looked at that stage, he’s content to have been rewarded with eighth.
“If that puncture hadn’t occurred, I think we would have been in a very similar situation to Fred. At that time, I started a row behind him and then we were right behind each other, but I had quite strong pace. We could have at least gone with him to the stop, or I think even gone in front so we could have definitely ended up in that P3-P4-P5 battle with everything that happened.
“If that first Safety Car hadn’t happened without the contact with Jak, it wouldn’t have given the option runners a chance for a quick and easy pit stop, which would have helped us prime runners a lot in a smooth-running race. The possibilities seem quite endless, we could have had a really, really strong race but with how it ended up, to get a couple of points is not too bad.”
Very much the man of the moment at his home event, Doohan had legions of passionate Aussie fans supporting him. Having enjoyed putting on a show at Formula 2’s first trip down under, the Invicta Virtuosi racer is eager to return to the Albert Park Circuit soon.
“It’s an awesome circuit, I really, really enjoyed it. There’s not really a part of the track that I don’t favour, what I think it really cool is the crowding that the circuit has making it like a real street circuit. It’s very technical, very difficult and the walls are obviously close, but you can still race, and you can still really hustle the car.
“It was a privilege to be able to have a home race so early in my career. To be surrounded and supported by the Aussie fans was something I’ve never experienced before and to have them backing me so much was amazing. I really can’t wait to hopefully come back for many years to come.”
Sitting 11th in the Drivers’ Championship on 24 points, Doohan is only one point off breaking into the top 10. With a short break before the season resumes in Baku at the end of the month, his focus is on bridging the 34-point gap to leader Ayumu Iwasa.
To do that, the Australian driver says that ironing out his Qualifying issues will be crucial. Chequered performances across the opening three rounds have seen him qualify in P17, P4 and P15. Doohan recognises that giving himself a safety net early on in the session via a banker lap could go a long way to getting him back into his one-lap flow.
“Qualifying was nowhere near where we should be. We were obviously the fastest by far in Practice and I think we were very fast again in Qualifying – just got caught out a little bit with the strategy and the Red Flag. We’ll be working on making sure that we don’t let that happen again and that we have something on the board so at worst, we’re in the top 10 to ensure us a decent points weekend.
“I think we found something for the different type of circuits in the Feature Race on balance. It’s starting now that we’re getting rid of these fundamental issues. We’re able to go back to a car where I was comfortable with at the end of last year, which is making me a lot more comfortable under the brakes and enabling me to go forward with a lot more confidence.”