“Controversy? What controversy?”, was Anthoine Hubert’s answer to our suggestion about the amount of complaints on stewardship this season. Sadly for him, he was going to face trouble precisely in this area: His “decent enough” P9 in Friday qualifying came to nothing after his exclusion, due to a silly tyre allocation infringement. The Arden team had mixed a tyre of Tatiana Calderón with Hubert’s set of wets!!! And you know that one about how difficult it is to overtake at the Hungaroring…
So best if we meet Hubert at a happier time… For example, after accomplishing a polished performance all Friday long.
Q: Well, we could start by how would you sum up your transition from GP3 to an F2 car?
AH: Well, I had my first test last year in Abu Dhabi, after the GP3 final. To be honest it does not feel like a big change. Just a bit more of everything: has more power, more braking, more tyre management. Many changes in small areas, with which you can make quite a big step. And also for the race weekend, you need to prepare more, because on race day you need to think about the strategy, how you are going to save the tyres, the two compounds. It amounts to more preparation, more thinking, more strategy than in GP3.
Q: This is something that looks like a characteristic of you, how you take care of your tyres. How did you manage to adapt your driving style when you came to GP3, to manage the Pirellis?
AH: I think that my initial driving style is already fitting quite well with this tyres. Of course, I have two years of experience in GP3, so… and F3 also. And then yeah, there is an understanding of how to do it, and it seems to be one of my strengths. It was also the case last year, and this year I used it straight away.
Q: Would you be capable of describing your own driving style – in terms of how you apply brakes compared to the others, how you use the throttle?
AH: Well, if I’d got knowledge how I do it, I wouldn’t give any tips to anyone either! I’m quite a clean driver, which can be a big strength for tyre management, but it can also be a weakness sometimes. Like, for example, in the rain, when you have to get the tyres in a good range of temperature. When the tyre is cold, like at Silverstone, is also difficult for me, because my natural style is not to push a lot, so then I need to go a bit against my nature, to improve a bit more, so yeah… I’m quite a clean driver. That’s how I would summarise it.
Q: You could be the Jenson Button of F2…!
AH: Yeah… [Laughs].
Q: Would you fancy rain for the rest of the weekend?
AH: It has been my first time with F2 in the rain, but I was a bit nervous going into the qualy, because it was the first time and straight away into qualifying. I was really good this morning in practice in the dry. So I was kind of hoping for it to stay dry, but in the end it was interesting to see where we were with the wets. I was P14 with my first set, I improved obviously when we changed the set and then we got P9. So it’s not a great result, but is decent, so from there I think that we can have a good race tomorrow.
Q: So… do you prefer a wet race?
AH: Hmm… I was P3 in the dry and P9 in the wet… Maybe dry is better. But… if it’s wet, we will take it, and we’ll do an interesting race as well and we’ll learn… and we’ll try to give our best.
Q: Was it of any use what you learnt in practice for what you have experienced in the wet in qualifying?
AH: Aah… not really. Because conditions are really different between the two. We lost like 20 seconds in the wet, so the track is really different. Yeah, at first is better to get into practice and to be back in the race seat after two weeks out, but you need to adapt a lot to the wet conditions.
Q: How similar or different are the ways of working with Arden, compared to what you were used to in ART?
AH: Well, first the category is different. You don’t work the same in GP3: There we are four drivers, here we are only two. Also last year we had four drivers fighting for the title; This year at the start I was struggling a bit, so I can’t really rely on ART to push me up. Last year I had Nikita, Callum and Jake, who were really fast. Even if I was P1, there were always some corners where they would be quicker, and in the end they would always find ways to improve. And also last year I had only one engineer; in Formula 2 we have two engineers. So yeah, it’s kind of different. This year I feel like I am really leading the team. Of course, we have really good people in Arden, but we are really working to push the team to get better results. Whereas when I was at ART they had been facing title challenges for many, many years. The approach was a bit different, you just came and listened to what they said, and now I’m also of course listening to what the team says, but trying to come with my experience and trying to help them and kind of lead the team.
Q: Are you aware of the point that made you stronger than your team-mates last year? Did you have the chance to compare telemetry or something like that to understand what made you so quicker?
AH: I think that the main thing was consistency. I was not the quickest all the time. Even though I was completely… I was the best in qualy, but when I wasn’t on pole I was P3, P2, P4… so I never really faded. I was just consistent. I knew what I had to do to become champion. I knew how many points I needed to score every weekend, and I was just trying to leave spaces and to get as many points as possible of course. I could have a weekend when I didn’t win any race, but still I did as many points as I wanted to beat, so it was the way that I managed this.
Q: Is that much better the level of drivers in F2 compared to what you faced in GP3? Is the quality of the driving and drivers in F2 sensibly better to what you were used to?
AH: Ahm… It’s not easy to compare, but of course F2 is the last step before F1, so the quality of drivers is really high, even though some drivers are there more because of money than on their talents. But yeah, it is a really good, good level. I know that some would jump into F1, so yeah, the level is really high. In GP3, of course, some people at the front are really good, but could be a little less… I don’t know.
Q: This year there has been a bit of controversy about stewarding in this category, in F2.
AH: I’m not aware of it. In which case?
Q: For example, after red flag in Monaco and… slightly at Silverstone with the Raghunathan issue…
AH: Yeah, there was Monaco, where they clearly made a mistake and then apologised straight after the weekend. Everyone does mistakes, so it’s good that they apologised, even though it was a big frustrating to lose places because of this. But in the end, yes, that was like this. Apart from this, to be honest, I’m not aware of big problems, so… not much to comment on this.
Q: You belong to the Renault Academy. As a French driver, do you feel that the recent appointment of Alain Prost in a new capacity is good news for you?
AH: Yeah, of course. My target to switch to Formula 1, so the journey to F1 change is necessary for me; and at the same time, I can benefit from the help that they give me as a driver: I can use the simulator, I can do physical training there and working with people who know how F1 is, so that’s the best you can have if you want to get into F1 and you want to reach a high level.
Q: Your father was a rally driver, has he given you any advice for circuit racing?
AH: When I started first, in the supermarket parking, he was giving me advice for the trajectory lines, you know… But then it’s different. You know, he’s a rally driver so… So no, not really of course. He gives me some advice from what he sees, about things that sometimes I don’t see because I’m fully focused on my race weekend. He sees some other teams doing different stuff… So he always tries to give me some advice, but not really on the pure driving.
Q: And with that background, how did you become interested in circuit racing?
AH: Because until 18, you are not allowed to drive any car, so you have to start with go-karting, and then when I got to 18, I was already in Formula Renault, so … I was not thinking of losing all I had learnt to go to rallying instead.
Q: But would you fancy it at some point?
AH: Yes, to try, why not?
Q: What moment would you pick as the best of this half-season?
AH: Ah, it’s difficult, because of course I had Monaco, my first outing there in F2. In Monaco, I had a really special feeling. But also winning in France… There was a lot of French people, a lot of French flags… Maybe a small preference for my win in France, because the feeling was really good: It was a really good race, a lot of flags… Maybe that’s why.
Q: Do you have any prospects for next year?
AH: [Laughs] I think that at the moment my target is to continue in F2. We already have some discussions going on, so we’ll see how it evolves. At the moment, I’m really focused on my job. Of course, I’m listening to what’s going on, but first I’ll do my job and then we’ll see.
Q: What do you think that maybe Arden could improve to be again what they used to be in F3000 and to progress through the field?
AH: I think that we are quite close to it. At this stage, you don’t have to change that much. They are obviously better than last year, and I think that there are some adjustments… That you also need to improve a bit, get this experience, and for sure they can get much better.