Interviews by Sergio Álvarez.
It might have been a very strange event for Formula 2 in Saudi Arabia but not all hope was lost: there was a maiden win for Ferrari junior Marcus Armstrong, a major cock-up for the young Alfa F1 bound Zhou in Sprint Race 1 and a confirmation of Piastri’s F2 greatness. Possibly even future F1 greatness, which we won’t know until 2023.
The circuit itself it’s one of those things: you do a track walk and you’re like, wow, this is gonna be awesome dude. And then you send out a bunch of aero-heavy F1 cars out and it’s a major disappointment. Chop all the wings now!
For F2, it’s less of an issue because their aero is minimal and minimalist, therefore serving as a catalyst for closer racing.
I tweeted it before and I’ll tweet it again – I’m a bit undecided on this new circuit, it’s got way too many corners for my little brain. I like ’em simple, as Monza, for instance, – and even that can do away with a corner or two. Jeddah is a more of a oversized kart track, where maybe Marrakech Street Circuit mated with Singapore but there was a third party in the middle as well (Pau, Monaco?). Kinda agree (with multiple F1/F2 drivers) on unnecessary danger here.
A quick word on the mother and father of all “stalled at the start shunts”: these cars are strong, however and quoting Jake Hughes: “Think it’s about time we put anti-stall on these cars.” Plan B: having NASCAR-style spotters wouldn’t be such a bad idea, if it’s to prevent nasty crashes like the one involving Pourchaire and Fittipaldi.
Sergio caught up with our R1 winner Marcus Armstrong after the race and asked the Kiwi to talk us through the preparation that went into this race weekend at Jeddah.
Q: “You told us a bit about work on clutch mapping with the team, but how did you prepare for a new track like this?”
MA: “I think you’ll laugh about it but we did a ridiculous amount of simulator (actual laughs). Also in Maranello I was lucky enough to do a few laps so I need to thank Rick, Eric (if it’s Erik with a K, we’d also like to thank EriC/K for being patient with us) and Alberto (can’t spell this one wrong). I actually owe them a thank you. I said if I win the race, I’ll give you a shout-out, so I’ve done a million laps on the simulator in Maranello and also in Le Mans at the DAMS factory so we definitely don’t lack in the preparation phase of a race weekend. Again, it’s well deserved for all of us.”
Race 2 and the mini-Feature race belonged to our new champ Piastri (well, it’s all over for the other guys, innit).
So Oscar, please tell us about your opinion on the location and detection points for the DRS zones and who made the call to pit in the Feature Race given its chaotic nature, is it all about taking risks?
Piastri: “It was a 100% down to the team (to pit), we discuss a lot of things in our pre-race briefings but not a 20-minute feature race so I just left it in their hands and it was a pretty last minute call to pit when I did. I guess maybe they saw the crash and expected a SC, dunno. But we had to pit at some point, the options were starting to fall away a little bit at the end. It was all in the team’s hands basically and I just said yes on the radio to when they wanted me to pit.”
And the DRS? Is it good, bad or ugly here at Jeddah? Given the opportunity, would you change anything on the DRS front?
Piastri: “Not really, I don’t think so (that’s a classic Piastri right there!). I almost passed Jehan at the end of the first DRS zone. I think it’s more just the nature of the curved straight and then a fast corner that’s the limiting factor there rather than the DRS zone. The next two DRS zones are quite powerful as well. I overtook Jehan into the last corner and then he got me back with DRS on the main straight. You have to plan your moves very carefully because with DRS especially, if you’ve got no one in front to get DRS off, it’s very tricky to overtake into that last corner and then to maintain the lead. I don’t think I’d change the length of the zones but they seem pretty fair.”
What follows next is merely a transcript from press conferences. We’ve been there, done it. I rather suspect it’s going to be fresh for you tho.
Q to Shwartzman and Viscaal regarding DRS zones, detection points and whether they’d like to challenge the FIA on that one. Thanks.
Viscaal: “I think they’re perfect, to be honest. Maybe I would make the first DRS zone a little bit longer so after Turn, um, just before 22… There are so many many corners that I got lost a bit. I would probably make it a bit longer just to make it easier to overtake into Turn 23. But apart from that, I think they’re perfect.”
Shwartzman: “Nah, I think DRS zones are good here. The first DRS zone it’s sort of a help to just get close to the car in front for the second and third DRS, which is the main straight. I highly doubt anybody can overtake with the first DRS zone because there’s always corners and it’s quite tricky. It’s also a bit bumpy coming into Turn 22. I wouldn’t really change (anything), I’m pretty happy with DRS zones as they are.”
Q to Piastri, Shwartzman and Viscaal: how physically demanding inside the cockpit is this track, from a driver’s perspective.
Shwartzman: “It’s not the easiest track, for sure, physically. There’s a lot of high-speed corners. I can say you can feel on your body from at least these two races that it’s not the easiest one. I can’t really say that I’m fully exhausted. I think tomorrow, with some rest, I’m gonna be a bit more fresh. It’s gonna be good, it’s gonna be alright. I feel pretty confident in that. The biggest, like not an issue, but a challenge is actually the heat and it’s very humid so, the air. You can’t really breath much, when you’re driving you sweat so much. Even now we had the evening run (race) and just you’re sweaty and it’s just so hot. It’s like you’re in a sauna, that’s the biggest challenge. Still I think it’s pretty doable. I’m pretty confident that it’s going to be alright.”
Piastri: “Yeah, it’s a pretty physical circuit definitely. I think throwing in the heat especially in Race 1 was tough. And the high-speed corners but also the fact that the straights aren’t straight. We don’t have power-steering obviously, so even the straights take a decent amount of effort. For the Feature Race we’ll all be fine. We’re professional athletes I guess. It’ll be fine but yes, it’s a pretty physical circuit.”
Viscaal: “I think Race 1 was definitely tougher than Race 2, that has to do of course with the temperature. There’s a lot of fast corners and I think Turn 13 with the banked exit, you know. At the end of the race my neck was kind of tyred after that. But driving two races in a row today wasn’t easy. We’ll get a good rest tonight and I’m sure we’ll be okay tomorrow.”
Q to Shwartzman and Boschung: how was your pit strategy today? Who made those calls and why? Thanks.
Shwartzman: “It was mainly up to the team to decide when is the right time. I think my plan was either to pit lap before Oscar or lap after so anyways were more focusing on them. Obviously on the radion at the beginning I heard the message that I’m going in but then probably they decided to bring first Oscar. The information from the engineer was just to stay on track. And yeah that’s it. To be honest, the last lap option (tyre) was actually giving up a bit which was a bit surprising. I thought that the option was gonna survive a bit more. Still, I mean, the plan was just to listen to the calls of the team and do what they ask.”
Boschung: “We discussed that with the team when we were in the pit lane under red flag. They basically told me to do the opposite of both PREMAs. Then gong into the race, because I struggled a little bit with the tyres, I then said we should be pitting as soon as the pit window is open. So basically I went (to the pits) together with Oscar. And yeah.”
Love the final “and yeah”, we need to do a feature with Boschung one day.
That’s all for today, see you in the next video, no.