Thoughts from Latifi, De Vries and Aitken
FIA Formula 2: Hello and welcome to the press conference with the top three finishers in today’s FIA Formula 2 Feature Race here in Hungary. We are joined by race winner Nicholas Latifi for DAMS, in second place is Nyck de Vries for ART Grand Prix and in third place is Jack Aitken for Campos Racing. Nicholas, that’s your fourth win of the season but it seemed to be all hinging on that mega-start. Just talk us through the opening lap from your point of view.
Nicholas Latifi: I got a good start off the line and was able to pull alongside Luca, maybe get just a bit in front of him. As Nyck defended the inside line it gave me the opportunity to just brake later around the outside. I guess through cold tyres Nyck had a bit of a lock-up and I was able to just get the cut back. I was a bit concerned as well to cut back because I couldn’t quite see where Luca was. I wasn’t sure if I was clear of him or not [laughs]. That was probably the race defining moment to get out into the lead, especially at this track, even though tyre wear does play a factor. It’s always much easier in clean air. Then it was just about managing the opening stint really, which was a bit different to past races as we were starting on brand new tyres. The goal for me was always to try and extend it but quite early on I could feel my pace was dropping off. I saw that was happening to everyone else as well and I was still pulling quite a big gap to Nyck. It was a bit of a difficult strategy call of when to pit because we knew Nyck was going for the undercut, but at the same time I already had a big gap and I said ‘if I’m still pulling away relative to the others then let’s keep going’. I think the guys called me in at the perfect time because another lap and Nyck would have probably come out in front. It gave me a bit of a margin to not have to risk too much on cold tyres which would not have been nice. Then it was just about managing traffic, there was a few guys on the other strategy, and managing the tyres which I was quite confident to do. I’m really happy to bring it home. A big thanks to the team, the car was really amazing to drive. Like Luca said at Silverstone [laughs] I wanted the race to keep going on at normal pushing speed because it was so nice to drive.
FIA Formula 2: You mentioned the pace, especially in the second stint, looked very strong and you were pulling away as well. Was the biggest challenge the traffic? Just how much were you panicking when you saw there was a safety car with three laps to go?
Nicholas: When you do the option/prime strategy the people on the alternate strategy are always the worry let’s say, especially when you are in the lead. You want to clear them as quickly as possible. I had a bit of a gap after the second lap and obviously Nyck closed back. As I caught the first ones, I’m not sure who, I think it was one of the Charouz’s, when I passed I think I passed at the perfect time. I think Nyck then got caught behind for one whole lap and I kind of used that as an opportunity to build a gap, stretch the legs a bit, which gave me a bit of margin for the rest of the race. Then yeah, the safety car at the end… With 10 laps to go I was really just saving my tyres in case there was a safety car. There was no point to keep pushing. It was probably the worst
thing that could have happened [laughs]. Going into Turn 4 where there was oil, which we found out afterwards [laughs], was very slippery and I went off the track. They went off as well, [laughs] and I was on the radio saying ‘we shouldn’t restart this race’. [Laughs] For one lap I think it would have been very dangerous so I’m happy that it ended under the safety car.
FIA Formula 2: Congratulations today. Nyck, moving on to you. Starting from pole I’m sure you’re probably disappointed with P2, but talk us through the start first of all.
Nyck de Vries: My getaway was okay. Obviously Luca [Ghiotto] was behind me and was trying to attack on the inside of Turn 1, so I wanted to defend and push a little bit more on the brakes. I locked up my inside wheel and I think it was probably a bit too late anyway. That’s how Nicholas got the undercut. My bad on that. Maybe, if we had been able to maintain the lead, overtaking appeared to be very difficult and when you are behind someone you also damage your tyres a lot more, so maybe the final result would have been different. I think it’s fair to say that Nicholas and DAMS were a little bit stronger than us today in this particular situation. We’ll have to take P2 but obviously I’m a bit disappointed.
FIA Formula 2: If we look at your second stint, you did drop away quite a bit from Nicholas in the latter stages and Jack was starting to close on you. Was that just pace management or was there a bit of tyre degradation going on there as well?
Nyck: There was certainly some tyre deg. The team kept me informed of the gap between myself and Jack. It could have been tight at the end but probably fine as well. I have to admit I was also saying on the radio that there was no chance to restart the race. There was oil and we all went off in Turn 4, so I think it was too dangerous to restart and risk a big crash.
FIA Formula 2: Well done today. Jack, moving on to you. Starting from seventh and climbing up to third on a track, as these guys have said, wasn’t the easiest to overtake on. Are you happy with that charge?
Jack Aitken: Yeah, it was easy for me [laughs]! No, it was very tough, especially because we had a radio failure on the formation lap so I was wasting my breath and so were the team I think [laughs]. We couldn’t hear each other. I had a decent start and then I managed to jump Mick [Schumacher] and Luca [Ghiotto] in the pit stops. I pushed quite hard in the out lap to make the undercut work, which was maybe a bit risky because of the deg that we have here. But I got the move done and then was just controlling the gap to Luca. I was trying to look at the TV screens to see how many laps were left [laughs] to figure out when to push. Like Nyck says, we were looking pretty good in the latter stages so I was pretty bummed when I saw the safety car. I thought we had a real chance to get second today, which is a shame, but I’m still very happy with third obviously.
FIA Formula 2: Just how challenging was it then without the radio to judge how to hold Luca off. Could you keep an eye on the gap to Nyck? Could you see it visually? How did you work that one out?
Jack: The hardest thing was actually the pit stop because the team were trying to hold out a pit board but they are quite tricky to see. It was a little bit of a leap of faith, but they were ready when I came in which was nice. Other than that to be honest I was controlling what I could see. I could see Luca [Ghiotto] behind me and I felt he was pushing too hard, which it turned out he was, and I could see on the TV screens that Nicky [Latifi] in the lead was not miles ahead. He was within range so I thought Nyck would also not be so far ahead. Then he came into view in the last few laps so I was getting a bit excited [laughs], but yeah…
FIA Formula 2: Well done today. Nicholas, just returning to you. You were asked yesterday about closing the gap to Nyck before the summer break. You’ve taken a few points off him today. Your third Feature Race win out of eight this season, does that give you confidence that you can continue that challenge after the break?
Nicholas: Yeah for sure. I think this particular race doesn’t give any more confidence going into the next races than I already had. I was always confident going into each weekend that I would have the package and my own capabilities to fight for podiums and wins. As I said before, it was only really at Paul Ricard [France] that I just seemed to be lacking overall pace. Every other race weekend the outright pace was there in the Feature Race. As Nyck got the pole it’s only really three points I’ve closed, but the weekend’s not done yet so I still have a job to do tomorrow. Going into the next race the confidence is there to continue this form.