Sergio’s Tête-à-tête with Felipe Drugovich (FIA Formula 3)

NEWS & STORIES, SERGIO'S COLUMN

Before focusing on this young driver’s quotes, we find sensible to make a relevant statement: If you need to break your duck in any category, just concede an interview to Iberianmph. Brazilian Felipe Drugovich did that almost 24 hours before scoring the first eight points of his F3 season. Something similar happened to Jack Aitken in F2 (coming soon): He talked to us and then, the following day, he got a podium made of clever strategy and seasoned racecraft.

Not that all this luck translated into an equally happy sprint race for Felipe. But we don’t believe it to be his fault. Prema’s Shwartzman punctured Drugovich’s right rear tyre, with the worst possible outcome: A sudden DNF just when Felipe was on his way to score the first podium of his career in F3. Well, we bring luck with us, but we can’t fight against all elements and over-agressive drivers.

Now, to tell the truth, we have to admit that we met a good mind for racing, that knows all too well how progress is always made step by step. We invite you to judge his words about racing by yourselves.


Q: We could start by summing up your season up until now.

FD: Well, summing up very shortly, it has been good, apart from some results that we expected better. But I think that this learning curve with the team (first time also with an English team), has been a good experience from which I’ve learnt a lot. And also to keep developing the car has been difficult. We are not where we wanted to be. But I think that it’s improving a lot. We’ll probably just get better throughout the year. I think it’s hard but we are on our way to fix things. I just have to keep my head down and keep working.

Q: What do you mean by “now working with a British team”? What differences do you find with what you are used to in other categories?

FD: Er… I don’t know if I can explain it, but let’s say… I wouldn’t say that they take things more seriously, but is more like a working environment, instead of a place where you can chill more. It’s more serious, let’s say. I would say it’s more serious. They take it more seriously, so you have to treat it more like a work and less as a sport.

Q: What memories do you have of your time in Spanish F3?

FD: Well. Last year was very good. Spanish F3 is a 3.5 formula, so it’s all together. Ehm.. But it has been very good. I’ve learnt a lot there. I think that the car was very good, so I could really focus on my driving, and I think that the tracks that we were to were really good, so it helps a lot with your driving style as well, and also carrying on to this year, because we’ve had Barcelona. That was one of the tracks that I raced last year.

Q: And what did you learn in terms of driving style?

FD: The difference between the two styles are pretty big. Michelins are a lot simpler and even though you don’t have as many push laps as these ones. With these ones, you really need to treat them carefully. It’s really hard. You have to focus on the fronts or the rears, you have to understand also the three compounds – the soft, the medium and the hard – and you have to understand which axle you have to load more – the fronts or the rears – and… the Michelins are much simpler: Just do some slow laps, they warm up properly and you just push. It’s more… it’s more rough, let’s say. This one is much more taking. Much more difficult to learn at the beginning, but I think at this moment we are in a pretty good tyre knowledge now.

Q: And which tyre philosophy do you like more?

FD: Ah, for sure Michelins! They are more rough, more “just-go-and-push”…

Q: Do you know what Pato O’Ward said after Austria? He said that he felt he was going slow, and he found out that he was not; he was even quick by Pirelli’s nursing standards!

FD: Yeah, it’s really difficult. You cannot overpush it, because once you overpush it and overheat the tyres it’s really bad. So you’ve really got to to read them, because if you’re sliding somewhere… you have to keep your tyre temperatures quite down. So for sure you are not driving 100% all the time. From the driver’s perspective, it’s not good.

Q: How does it translate into your braking, acceleration… in your driving style when you have to manage the Pirellis?

FD: I think it depends on which axle you are overheating more, so if you have problems with the fronts, you have to use more the rears. For example, in a race relation we can’t really combine much brake and turning, compared to the Michelins. You have to really focus on braking and exit, and don’t do much lateral G-forces on the car. So yeah…

Q: No brake-trailing, then.

FD: Yeah, you have to avoid any slide; anything that makes the tyre slide, like when you have wheelspin or sliding with the rears is really bad. Also the fronts. If you have understeer and you keep doing it for two of three laps then the temperatures just goes to the sky and there is no more grip.

Q: And judging by practice today… what could be the problem at the Hungaroring? The fronts? The rears? What have you felt?

FD: From what I’ve felt during the practice I think that the rears are the main problem. But, once you’re in traffic, you get the dirty air from the guy in front, then the car gets understeer and the fronts can be the problem.

Q: Would you describe yourself as a smooth driver or as an aggressive one?

FD: Hmmm… I’d say more as a smooth driver. Definitely more towards under-pushing than the overpushing; more like… I’d say… I have not to be in the perfect spot I’d rather be not fast enough than too fast.

Q: Now talking about Brazilian motorsport: What do you feel that is lacking there?

FD: I think that they don’t have proper categories. Every time that they try to do something, I think that they… I don’t know. … good level of drivers because they have some categories that they tried the Formula 4 and they had the Formula 3 for many years. But then, you’re driving with old cars, much different tyres compared to the Pirellis… And once the driver leaves them they come up to here and everything is different, and they are not fast. I think that’s the main problem, they have to make everything more similar to here, because for sure, if you want to do something as a racing driver, you have to commit about at least Formula 4 and Formula 3, there should be a chance in Brazil also. But I don’t think they do everything… I mean, I was not there to see what’s the problem there, but from what I hear, categories are not really organized there. Because of that, they don’t get so many drivers; a small field means low level of driving normally, because nobody is pushing each other. From then they come up to here and they’re not so fast or the cars are really different, so… They are so many things to sum up… It’s not bad, but it’s not like (it’s going) in the right direction where they’re trying to go in Brazil with categories.

Q: Are you happy with the motorsport ladder and how categories are organized through the…

FD: Ah, here in Europe, I think it’s not bad, they’re like MotoGP, Moto3, Moto2… and they’re trying to do the same. I think it’s the right thing to do. The only problem that I see is that we need to get more track time and we don’t have it, so it’s a pretty big problem. It makes us do more and try to learn as much as we can with the limited time that we have. But I think that, at the moment, they are going in the right direction with F3, F2 and F1 on the same weekend, which is good for visibility by F1 teams. But I think that no major problems, as I said.

Q: Would you feel ready to jump to F2 and follow an accelerated path? Because some people managed to do it…

FD:  Hm… Yeah… I wouldn’t say I’m not ready, because even though it’s 200 HP now, this jump of categories when you’re a race driver and you drive a lot (like us, that we have a lot of experience), it doesn’t make any difference. It takes, I don’t know… 10 or 20 laps to start to feel comfortable, and of course you have to get 20 laps to start your learning curve about the car, the tyres and everything. But it’s not that different from F3. They’ve probably got four to six seconds faster than us, which is not a huge difference, so… I don’t know. I think that the level in F2 is as high as in F3 now, so…

Q: So you think that there’s not such a big difference in terms of driver quality between F3 and F2?

FD: Not this year. I feel that F3 is really strong this year. And that’s why I feel… I wouldn’t say that I feel ready, but I think that it would not be a problem to go to F2, let’s say. Of course there’s the Budget and all this kind of stuff, and I don’t decide about this, but… I think that first I need to get a good result in F3 and then we’ll see what we do.

Q: How do you get on with Pedro Piquet?

FD: Good. I’ve known him since go-karts in Brazil so… Yeah, he’s a nice guy.

Q: Did he give you any advice after a full year of GP3 for him?

FD: No [laughs]. We all do the same. We are in the same category, we are competitors, so he won’t give me any advice. He is a nice guy, we talk normally like friends, so no problem.

Q: And what do you expect of this weekend? What perspectives do you have?

FD: Oh, we’re trying to improve from the last races. We had some problems with qualifying, which seems until now, up to free practice, due to stewardship, the time that we have to fix them, because after that, we start from the back. But even when we start from the back, we do some good lap times, as a team overall. But I’m not afraid of failing as of late. I think that we have to make races tests for us, just to improve the car. And for me, I think that the most important thing is to keep improving as a driver, learning about the Pirelli tyres, about bigger cars, and that’s it. As for expectations for this weekend, the same as the other one: Just improve the car set up and driving for me, and just to get, overall, a better package.

Q: And for next year what possibilities do you see?

FD: I don’t know yet. I need to see the results from this year.

Q: Would you like a wet track for the rest of the weekend?

FD: Yes! Yes.

The Gods of the weather did not concede him his wish, but maybe it has been better this way. In Hungary, after talking to us (we keep underlining it), he showed that he no longer needs to pray to catch a good result: He’s getting close to become the complete package at this stage in the motorsport ladder.

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