Talking F2 / F3 Heads: the Best of e-Pressers


Cover photo by Diego Merino.

What goes on through one’s brain in January and February each year?

One’s brain is thinking.

Formula 2™… Formula 3™…

And it’s thinking of pitlane, crossing the pit road carefully, taking a pic, chatting with a driver, maybe even waving playfully to a Pirelli technician or Didier himself.

It’s like that famous paddock joke: why did the photographer cross the pit road? You know that one, right?

Enter 2020.

And what are we doing? We partake in e-pressers aka virtual press conferences. From our homes. NOT FROM THE TRACK!

Dude, we can’t even smell burnt rubber or have an engine oil cocktail in F2 hospitality any more. It’s a downer. But we respect the rules and social distancing. For sure.

Nevertheless, we have Mick Schumacher and his wonderful collection of English ADVERBS.

Which brings us on to our ‘best of’ e-pressers feature where we pick up our favourite questions made by us (Sergio) and also our most-liked answers by F2 & F3 peeps as well.

Belgian GP, Formula 3.

A question for Lirim, let’s say someone argued you had a lucky pole because of the red flag, what would your response be?

L. Zendeli (Trident): Actually I mean, I pulled a lap being two tenths quicker than P2 and like it was six, seven tenths quicker than P5, P6, I dunno. And there was actually another chance just before it started to rain where some guys improved and I didn’t because I had a mistake in my lap. I think if someone would’ve done a better job at that time, he could’ve been pole. For sure, I was lucky at the end that the rain started so y’know I did the pole lap and then no one really had any more or so many chances to improve so there’s also luck.

We’ve had nine different winners in F3 this year, what’s the biggest reason for that? Why is it so wide open this season?

D. Beckmann (Trident): I think last year we had also lots of winners but last year we had a new car so some teams did a lot better work than others and could score more wins. This year everyone has one-year experience and also the reverse grid is up to P10 so obviously then some other drivers can go to P1. That’s opens up the field more at the front, so I think these are two things why it’s a bit more open. But in general if everyone had the same car (with best engineers), we would have a lot more winners. Yeah, maybe, maybe next year we’ll be even closer, you know. Teams are always improving and learn from their mistakes. So I think F3 is really the hardest championship because we have also really fast drivers and it’s always a big fight, qualifyings are really close, so I think F3 and F2 are the series (both are FIA Championships) to watch when you want to go up (in your career).

Do you feel that consistency will be the key or it will be better to start taking some risks in order to make a difference this year in the championship?

T. Pourchaire (ART Grand Prix): Well, for me, I think consistency is every time the key in every championsip but now it’s the last three rounds of the championship, I think some drivers will take more risks. Me first I think! I need to take some risks if I want to be in the top three in the championship. But yeah, when we see David every time in the points it’s amazing. Now he’s third in the championship and consistency for sure is the key.

Belgian GP, Formula 2.

A question to all the podium finishers – will you be happy to one day become driver stewards and have to judge penalties?

Mick Schumacher (PREMA Racing): I think they have a very interesting job, difficult one I think. None of us are probably now currently in the position to judge things right or wrong. Obviously everyone has their own perspectives and we’re only humans so everybody takes their own decisions. If you want something from me, to be honest I don’t think so, I probably prefer driving and sitting behind (better up front!) and watching people drive. But yeah, I think that everybody should do what they enjoy doing.

A question for Robert and Mick – when you have a track like Spa with long straights and high speed corners, even some low-speed corners, to what extent are you able, within the team, to follow your own personal preferred set-up route?

Robert Shwartzman (PREMA Racing): Well, I mean, me and Mick we have quite similar baseline balance and then we can obviously ask for our personal set-up changes, like the wing or something that we prefer.

Mick Schumacher (PREMA Racing): I think that we share knowledge from last year’s car so for me I know what I want and I know what I need so we follow kind of path I think that Robert, not having driven that much this car yet, kind of follows us through but nevertheless, you know, he has, as he said, different driving style. So yeah, it doesn’t mean that he’s gonna be quicker in my car and it doesn’t mean that I’ll be quick in his car. Also internally in the car there are differences, you won’t find a car that’s 100% the same to another one on the grid so therefore you have to adapt, you have to see OK, how’s this car handling compared to the others and therefore readapt the set-ups.

Italian GP, Formula 3.

If you were the rulemaker or the Race Director, what would you suggest to avoid the situation with cars queueing to get each other’s tow from quali?

Lirim Zendeli (Trident): Woah, it’s hard to say. I mean everyone hoped that this year would be cleaner than last year but that’s the characteristic of Monza. Everyone’s have the tow. I mean I did one lap without the tow and it was nowhere, not like with the tow – there’s the reason why everyone wants to have it. Yeah, unfortunately sometimes it can get worse and sometimes not but it’s up to the situation and you cannot plan this. I don’t think there’s any fault of anyone, it’s just the situation I think.

Théo, can we have your thoughts on PREMA vs ART please?

T. Pourchaire (ART Grand Prix): I think we’re a bit far to be honest. Not in terms of performance but we’re doing mistakes, I think three drivers and ART are doing mistakes. Me I’m in my rookie year, as Alex, so we’re doing mistakes, rookie mistakes I mean. And Sebastián (Fernández) has not so much luck this year (you can RT that, son!). And for sure PREMA is doing a good job as last year. They are in the top 5 every race almost so it’s incredible. We try to do our best. I think in terms of performance, I’m not so bad, with the pole yesterday. We’re quite fast, we need to stop making mistakes and I think maybe next year ART can fight for the championship.

Frederik, P1 today…

Frederik Vesti (PREMA Racing): To be honest, when the restart happened I came quickly past Jake Hughes. But then for like 3-4 laps it seemed quite equal, we were both struggling, it was clear that we both pushed hard to be in the position we were in. But then towards the end I started undestanding where I can push and where I needed to relax a bit for the tyres to stay alive. And then I seemed to gain a bit of pace compared to Théo and in the slipstream I could drive past on the straight with a late move into turn one. I think it was about understanding where tyres were struggling and then go from there.

Italian GP, Formula 2.

Mick, did it feel better to win last year in Hungary (Sprint Race) or in Monza this year (Feature Race, the BIG ONE)?

Mick Schumacher (PREMA Racing): Any win is kinda special, nevertheless I think last year it was kind of surprising to win in Budapest, we did not have the pace last year, I think, that Matsushita (who finished in second place) had, he had a pace advantage but we still managed due to track layout and different scenarios to be in front. This one (in Monza) I think we’ve really kind of shown that we have the pace, we were staying with Callum (Ilott) easily and extended the run on the option, which shows that we had great potential. Obviously we had longer life in the tyre than Callum did so I think considering it this way, I think we were here quite dominant and therefore this one is more special I would say.

Luca, could you give us your take on F2’s 2020 tyres?

Luca Ghiotto (Hitech Grand Prix): Yeah, it is (a challenge for everyone). I think, well, I honestly tried to understand them (Pirelli tyres). The thing is it looks like small changes in temperatures, or track temperature, or air temperature, is making a very big difference on how the tyres behave and small mistakes make TEN times more of an affect on the tyre life compared to what they were doing on the old tyre. So really small things sometimes make a really big, big, big difference.

Callum, what about the ‘stress’ of being a Ferrari Junior?

Callum Ilott (UNI-Virtuosi): I think within the FDA (Ferrari Driver Academy) we’re doing a good job in the championsip. This year there’s a lot of strong drivers and a lot of competition so it’s even better to stand out amongst that. But yeah, obviously if Mattia Binotto is watching us, that’s a benefit to all of us.

Tuscan GP, Mugello, Formula 3.

Did the long delay to the season and then the quick succession of races affect Oscar’s concentration?

Oscar Piastri: Um, I wouldn’t really say it’s made it more difficult, I think it’s just beig a challenge to everyone. To be honest, I think the break kind of helped me a little bit: it meant I could prepare a bit more, it meant I could speak with the team a lot more to try and basically learn everything I could without driving the car. So I think I prepared really well in the break before the beginning of the year and then obviously starting it off with a win was the perfect way to start it so I think the key to this year was to try and start the year with good momentum, which I did. It was a bit shaky in the middle, but yeah, I think as long as you could stay consistent and being mentally strong, and not let bad results get you down, yeah, that was probably the biggest thing to overcome.

What piece of advice would you give to any rookie FIA F3 driver starting in this championship maybe tomorrow or next year?

Oscar Piastri: Just to qualify better than I did because it makes your life a lot easier! I think learning the tyres was the biggest thing that I’ve had to do this year. And yeah, generally speaking, qualifying result dictates the weekend, except for maybe at Monza and Spa where it doesn’t really matter. Yeah, learning the tyres and being consistent throughout the year, and making sure you can score points consistently. I think Beckmann did a very job of that this year, (inaudible) he was still very much in the fight for the title. I think you need to be quick but consistency is really the key and maximizing both the races. Obviously if you can qualify at the front and get big points in Race 1, it helps a lot but you never can count out the reverse grid race too.

Tuscan GP, Mugello, Formula 2.

A question to Jüri: could you talk us through your start and what went wrong?

Jüri Vips (DAMS): We have a special throttle map and it’s basically to prevent cars from stalling but it’s very aggressive so if you say, like, I dunno, if you’re already around 60% on the pedal – you’re 100% throttle on the engine side. It’s very sensitive to how much throttle you have, to how much wheelspin you’re gonna have. So this is just something for me to get my head around, how to do good starts consistently because this is not something I’m not doing at the moment and I think with more track time it will get better and better.

Sudenly, out of nowhere, Louis Delétraz and Christian Lundgaard interrupt JV to suggest having less throttle at the start – nah, you can’t  seriously suggest that to a fellow racing driver! What a Leslie Nielsen-esque situation, fun and games at the presser.

Cheeky laughter in the background.

Continued JV: “Yes, I know! But sometimes you do less and then you jump the start. It’s a fine balance.”

Russian GP, F2.

What’s been the most difficult bit of your work in quali, the lack of grip of the surface the track or it’s rather the wind?

Yuki Tsunoda (Carlin): Um, yeah, I think different track conditions. Usually we drove FP after Formula 1 and Formula 3 and the track’s grip is already high but this time it was really dusty. Even when I was driving behind someone, I could feel the dust from the eyes and it was really, really dusty. But also slippery, if you miss the line you just go off track so it was really difficult to drive fast on the line, just one line. Yeah, I think that’s the main thing I felt a bit difficult compared to previous races.

Jehan Daruvala (Carlin): It’s the first weekend where we went out first on track so that was a bit different. It was harder to find the limit, the car was moving around a lot more. But yeah, for me the most surprising thing, what Mick said, was that I didn’t really feel much more grip on the supersoft tyre, I expected it to be a lot faster because my first lap was only a couple of tenths faster than I went in FP and I was surprised I was actually the fastest when I saw the time on my dash. But yeah, I think just increasing track temperature affected the overall performance and it was just about constantly adapting to the wind and the track.

The usual undercut / overcut dilemma can’t be left out, how did you approach this fascinating conundrum?

Yuki Tsunoda (Carlin): Still OK (Yuki’s tyres at the time of the pitstop), not much different compared to my best lap on the supersofts until Sector 2, but then I got radio from my engineer to pit this lap. Honestly I felt the tyres were still there. When I went into Sector 3 I felt a lot of wheelspin, especially in the rear and also supersoft to medium tyres is a big difference so I tried to avoid the undercut from Mick, the pitstop was perfect, everything was perfect.

Mick Schumacher (PREMA Racing): It was a bit of a messy (late) call from my side. I got the call up to pit and I said no and that I could go longer. And then coming into the last sector I felt like my rears suddenly lighting up so I was a bit confused. I called for pitstop and I saw everybody pit too. I was like OK, I have to pit. I just went to the pit lane and called pit entry, the team was a bit surprised I guess. But they managed to do well, I’m very, very happy about that. Could’ve been very wrong, but it went right so that’s what counts at the end.

Callum Ilott (UNI-Virtuosi): If wanted (I could’ve gone longer), but I think in hindsight I really should’ve gone (to the pits) one lap earlier. With everything that happened in the box and y’know these guys both pitting at the same time I probably would’ve done that. We all had a similar thing that you come to the last sector and the rears are a little bit loose and that just changes your mind from going longer to coming in. I had the option to come in whenever I wanted because my team-mate was doing the opposite strategy so I just made the call, saw the others go in and I was like yeah, it’s not ideal but I’ll take it anyway.

& our personal Nº1 on the list! No Nº2 or Nº3. We want NUMBER 1 & only NUMBER 1. We eat success 4 brekkie.

What would you include on your Formula 2 “future generations” wishlist for (president and CEO of Formula 1 next year) Stefano Domenicali?

Mick Schumacher (PREMA Racing): I’m quite familiar with Stefano. He’s a good friend of the family and he knows me since I’m a little boy. I’m definitely happy to get this news. He’s a great guy and I’m sure he’s gonna do very well in this position. For me, Formula 2 is a very difficult championship to be honest because you you only get that forty minutes driving before going into qualifying and I think that’s something which is difficult for rookies. Obviously this year is a bit different, we have new tyres. Most of the tyres are quite easy to drive, quite easy to handle compared to last year’s but I think (more) track time would be quite good for F2 in general. Just getting more track time, more tyres.

Yuki Tsunoda (Carlin): Hmm, yeah. One more Free Practice would be much easier for the race weekend I think. With one FP and going straight into qualifying, the same as Formula 3, makes it (F2) a very difficult championship, it’s just 40 something minutes (FP), I dunno. Straight into qualifying, one set of new tyres so yeah. Just one more Free Practice would make life much easier for us.

& to wrap it up…

How much of a contribution do F2 drivers make over the course of a given weekend to the Race Direction, to the organizers about the safety of the track or things they see on the track?

Guanyu Zhou (UNI-Virtuosi Racing): At the end of the day, F2 is a high level championship and as most F1 drivers been in this championship before they reach the top level of motorsport. I think all the F2 drivers have decent or great experience from the past junior single-seaters all the way coming through here. We are still learning but to be honest I think we all know now the direction we want to be or the direction we want to indicate to the team or the people working around us to be better together.

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