THOUGHTS FROM ILOTT, SHWARTZMAN AND ZHOU
FIA Formula 2: Hello and welcome to the press conference with the top three qualifiers for tomorrow's FIA Formula 2 Feature Race here in Spain. We are joined by pole-sitter Callum Ilott for UNI-Virtuosi, in second is Robert Shwartzman for PREMA Racing, and third is Guanyu Zhou, also for UNI-Virtuosi. Callum, your third pole position in four races, and that one looked like it all hinged on the strategy. Just who made that call to take that approach today?
Callum Ilott: To be fair I'd probably have been alright if I went with everyone, but the first run was a little bit messy. There was lots of traffic even though we waited. I think we had time to do it. It wasn't even discussed before, but my engineer said that we could run in the gap and I might get the second lap in, but it was likely that people would come out. I was like, "yeah, okay, let's give it a go." It worked. A good free track. I think, because of where we are in the pit lane, it's a little bit mixed and you can't really get in the queue. Other people queue up for ages. I don't know how they do it without going over temperature. But it worked and I put in a good lap. What can I say? It's pole.
FIA Formula 2: Not trying to take anything away from how good the lap was as well, so I'll give you some credit back. You said you did it in pain? What's wrong with your neck?
Callum: I woke up a bit funny. I pulled a muscle in the back of my neck, so I can't really move my head any more than that to the right. I thought it was going to be alright when I went out for Free Practice, but it turns out it's right on the back. Whenever I brake, I was wincing in pain. Then we tried to sort it out in between the runs and to be fair it got a bit better for Quali. It wasn't as painful but it's not comfortable, that's for sure. That's the story on that. Not the best! I'll try not to wake up on the wrong side of the bed.
FIA Formula 2: Good luck with that, and well done today. Robert, just moving on to you. It was a tough couple of weekends for you at Silverstone, but you bounce back here with your first front row start of the season. Just how happy are you with that performance?
Robert Shwartzman: I'm really happy. Obviously, it took a bit of time to get here. We made a really good step up from Free Practice today, so I'm really positive and happy and thankful to the team. We made a good improvement. The last two weekends in Silverstone were really bad. It's better to forget them. We just learn from our mistakes, try to forget all the negatives, and stay positive. That's we did here. I think it worked great. Tomorrow we're starting with me, Callum, and Zhou, all of us together. My target is, as usual, to do the best start possible, then if I have the opportunity, try to make a move. If not, just take it easy. The race is long, and I know that, so just try to manage the tyres. That's quite difficult in this category, so that's going to be the main target. At the end, hopefully it will be a really good result.
FIA Formula 2: You've had some very strong results this season in races, but before today sixth was your best Qualifying result. How crucial does this sort of performance feel to mounting a title challenge?
Robert: Before, something went wrong in every Qualifying session. Either it was the weather conditions, or it was me just not doing the right job. Here, finally, we managed to get more or less everything together. Still, we lacked a little bit of lap time to Callum, but we were quite close. Our pace is almost there. To me, it's a good point. In future I'll do my best to do the same results in Quali. Obviously, from the beginning of the season I knew that I needed to improve. The races were ok, but the Quali was still missing. From this race I'm getting happier with how the Quali goes, and for the next races it's the same target - just do the best job possible.
FIA Formula 2: Good luck, well done today. Zhou, moving on to you. Your final lap was looking really close with Callum until the final sector. Was that a case of the tyres going off at the end of the lap?
Guanyu Zhou: Yeah definitely. The lap before I made a few mistakes, here and there, and I was pretty confident that I could improve by quite a big chunk. I got into the lap and it was all nice and smooth in the first two sectors. I got to the last sector and I think you could see on the TV that the rear of the car was dropping massively. I had it snap three times in the last three corners. I was happy to improve the lap time, but obviously it's not enough for pole or the front row. Considering where we were in practice this morning, I think me, my engineer and the whole team did a good job to put us up here again.
FIA Formula 2: I mentioned to Callum the timing of his lap. You were last on track and you were very late going out in the Qualifying session as well. Was that planned, or was there an issue?
Zhou: There was a plan. In practice I had a lot of traffic in the last chicane, so the plan was to get in front or to where there was more clean air, and for me to do a lap alone. There's more pressure doing that, because you only get one lap at the end, so I was waiting in the pit lane and kept asking on the radio, "are we going to go out or not, because I don't have the time! How long is left?" The preparation lap went a bit harder than we expected because with so many people on a flying lap I had to watch my mirrors. That meant I had to get off the racing line and get all the rubbish on my tyres. Starting the lap wasn't ideal compared to the run before. That compromised the lap time a bit, but in general I'm pretty happy with the car.
FIA Formula 2: Thank you very much. Callum, just returning to you. You've got the neck issue, but you've also got the championship lead. From either of those points, does anything change in your approach, sitting here ahead of tomorrow's race?
Callum: No. It's a good place to start. It doesn't get much better! It's always nice to come into the weekend with a good job done already. Let's see.