Interviews by Sergio Álvarez; spiritual guidance & header image by Diego Merino.
Better late than never? So we thought: there’s an awfully long way to go before the next FIA Formula 3 race in 2023 and still a whole month of waiting before some (once again, FIA) Formula 2 action in Abu Dhabi. Why not delve into our already rich 2022 archive and dig out and dust off some never read before driver quotes from the 2022 Belgian GP? So we did.
Spa, it’s such a wonderful place and a phenomenal track, it’s one of rare original and “natural circuits” or “organic circuits”, as I like to call them, that were just meant to happen. The old Spa, of course, was mighty crazy and frightening, if you think about it. But equally romantic: you’d be arriving to the track in your trusty Sunbeam Alpine or whatever, Supeduke 200 Special (I’m inventing here, I won’t stop inventing, sorry Carlos), covered in clouds of smoke from your Marlboro cigarettes and leaded fuel, sipping on Coke with traces of cocaine in it and such. You’d stop at a local rude bar to make a phone call to your manager in London from a phone booth and have a large beer, smoke more cigarettes, do something nasty, as you would back then, and later on jump into your race car, surrounded by highly explosive petrol tanks, rather primitive and fragile early days of F1 technology and zero track/driver safety to boot.
Good times. Oh how I miss those days!
FIA F2: Qualifying
Q: Felipe, do you think you can repeat the Barcelona double in Spa this time out?
Felipe Drugovich: “Yeah, I think we have a good chance to win here – looking at the pace. Obviously, as Logan (Sargeant) said before it’s quite different from qualifying to race pace so we need to try and work out what’s the best balance and best set-up for the race and what I should do to prevent tyre degradation. Looking at the pace now, it looks very good and I think we have a little bit of data from 2020 as well that we can look at. Even though the tyres are not the same but we can look at that and hopefully we can make up good positions in the Sprint Race and keep the (starting) position in the Feature Race.”
Q: Guys, how difficult was Turn 1 today for you? Or should we say the modified Turn 1.
Enzo Fittipaldi: “It was very tricky. I mean the whole day it’s been very tricky because of the humid conditions, raining. Then you don’t really know where to brake it’s more by feeling because it’s very easy to lock up and go straight: I did it in FP1 where I locked up and just went straight on. That was really hard. Eau Rouge was tricky as well, in the first laps you weren’t sure whether it was going to be easy flat or not. I didn’t even complete a push lap in FP so it was very tricky conditions.”
Felipe Drugovich: “My first push lap I got a massive wheelspin out of Turn 1 so I think I was probably eight tenths off in Sector 1. I think that kind of explains how tricky that was.”
Logan Sargeant: “Similar to what they said. It’s been a difficult corner all day. All the big brake zones have been difficult. You just gotta do your best and adapt to the situation.”
FIA F2: Feature Race
Felipe, did you expect the difference in performance on the prime tyre compared to the Virtuosi car? Undercut, overcut.
Felipe Drugovich: “Yeah, a little bit maybe. We always knew and preferred the soft tyre to the medium so on the softs we were quite similar. Maybe, I dunno whether he (Doohan) was quicker or not. I think on the primes I expected to be less strong than on the softs. They were a little bit limited by the rear deg and the same thing today so I just had to be happy with that second place and bring the car home there because every time I tried to push a little bit more, three or four corners, then I could feel the rears already going. Not much more I could’ve done and we expected that a little bit. Obviously, it was stronger than we expected, I think we just have to live with it and learn.”
Felipe, do you think your battle today with Doohan shows your true colours, that you’re a fighter, like you want to silence doubters?
Felipe Drugovich: “I did everything I could. From inside the car, from my side I did everything I could. I’m happy with my job (that I’ve done today). I think whoever is looking from the outside, they might take a different look at that. From inside the car I did all I could and hopefully they see it with the right eyes.”
FIA F3: Qualifying
Q: Guys, how did you judge when it was time to push on slicks today?
Caio Collet: “We knew, I think, the three of us, that the lap was going to be in the end, with the track drying up. So the first few laps was just to see what the limit was, where you could push and the track drying up lap after lap. You need to see where the limit is. We knew it was going to be in the end, I did a cool-down (lap) before to make sure I had the tyres in the right window and use everything I could in that last lap and it worked well.”
Zane Maloney: “Like Caio said, we knew in the last lap it was going to be the time to really push. I think from my side, team told me to do a cool-down (lap) and I didn’t listen and I kept pushing three or four laps in a row. From my side, it really helped with the driving side of things, but maybe for the tyres I might go in and Brambi (ALESSANDRO BRAMBILLA, RACE ENGINEER) might kill me for the tyres. It was a good session.”
Francesco Pizzi: “For me, I didn’t have radio communication on that run so I knew it was going to be on the last lap, I looked on the screen the lap before and I saw it was just three minutes (left). I said ‘I take my cool-down now or I never gonna take it’ so I took the cool-down actually with Caio. Then I got the perfect let’s say timing on the straight and at the end I could get the lap done. Of course, I started really steady to get the tyres up to temperature and don’t destroy them straight away because, as they said, we knew it was going to be on the last lap.”
Caio, compared to last year at Spa, how has your approach changed in the corners where gravel traps have been added?
Caio Collet: “Not much to be honest! I think Turn 8 and 9, and also 15 it’s pretty much the same approach. Obviously, if you push a little bit more, you have gravel instead of run-off areas which is a little bit more tricky. But we approach (corners) in the same way. I prefer to have gravel than run-offs, to be honest.”
FIA F3: Sprint Race
Q: During the red flag, guys, you mentioned you changed stuff on the car. What was it then?
Roman Stanek: “It’s a secret, it’s a secret! The car is never perfect so you always miss maybe a bit of front or a bit of rear and you try to extract the best – what you can because I think we’re not able to touch the car so much during the Red Flag. We just made a little change which helped us and yeah, that’s it.”
Oliver Bearman: “Obviously the set-up for the race is always a guess because we don’t have time in FP to do race runs. It’s always a bit of a guess but normally we get it pretty good. It’s nice to make a change and we did so. I think most people did. Mainly because I was starting P5 I wasn’t expecting to lead the race so quickly. I think by lap 2 I was in the lead. We set the car up to follow and I was leading so then we just set the car up to lead and that was it.”
Alex Smolyar: “I already said that I was struggling to get the temperature in the front tyre so when we went into the pit lane we had a discussion with the team. I’m not sure we can change something in the suspension to be honest. We definitely changed something, I’m not sure it helped but still we will go back to our truck, we will discuss with the engineers and we’ll see what we’re going to do for tomorrow. Hopefully, they’ll be no Red Flags so we’ll need to have a perfect or at least a close to perfect car for the start (on Sunday).”
Q: Would you guys have preferred a standing start (instead of a rolling start) in order to have more opportunities (to win)?
Roman Stanek: “To be honest, I don’t know. Here you really want to get a good slipstream and especially after the Safety Car restart we all go into the slipstream. And also the standing start is quite dangerous because once you lock up, somebody can take you out and I think they made a good decision to do a rolling start. As always, I would have extracted the best even if it was a standing start (a shameless plug there!) or a rolling start. It doesn’t really matter. At that moment, when we raced, I preferred the rolling start.”
Alex Smolyar: “It’s not about Turn 1, it’s more about Turn 5, going into Turn 5. We already saw that the standing start caused a lot of chaos in Turn 5 so I think it’s better to do the rolling start because it spreads a bit more the drivers. And my actual start at the beginning of the race was so bad that I didn’t really want to try it any more. I was just ‘okay we do the rolling start’ and then I’d go back to the team and we’ll discuss what was wrong at the (initial) start and we do better tomorrow. For me it’s not a big difference so long as you’re close to the guy in front after Eau Rouge in the slipstream. You’re good to go, you can fight.”