Thoughts from Ilott, Zhou and Mazepin
FIA Formula 2: Hello and welcome to the press conference with the top three qualifiers for tomorrow’s FIA Formula 2 Feature Race here in Monza. We are joined by pole sitter Callum Ilott for Sauber Junior Team by Charouz, in second place is Guanyu Zhou for UNI-Virtuosi Racing and third is Nikita Mazepin for ART Grand Prix. Callum, your first Formula 2 pole position, and on a weekend when you are your teams only entry. This must feel really special.
Callum Ilott: Yeah. Mixed emotions really. Very special but very difficult at the same time. Obviously, speaking on behalf of a lot of us going into this weekend was a strange feeling, especially walking into the paddock yesterday. To be the only car in the team not only affects performance but the atmosphere in the team. It’s very empty. We worked really hard and I think the guys did an amazing job, not only to build the car up as a sign of respect for both Juan [Manuel Correa] and Anthoine [Hubert], but to still perform well this weekend with just me and to work really hard and focus on that. Obviously, Monza is an individual track and it was individual conditions, but I’m really happy that we turned all that negative energy from last weekend into a positive result, and doing it for Anthoine, for Juan, and for both their families. I think everyone as a whole, going back out as an F2 grid and putting on a good result, with nothing bad after last weekend, has been a really great achievement by everyone. To turn up, still be positive and keep going is incredible I think.
FIA Formula 2: When that session started, you obviously delivered in the car and you were on provisional pole from a very early stage. What was it like waiting for the clock to tick down, seeing if conditions would improve enough for anyone to try and beat you?
Callum: Interesting. I didn’t know how quick I was during the first run. Obviously I had Nikita in front of me, and I was slowly gaining a little bit but you can’t really tell compared to the rest of the track and then it was after the last lap that they said ‘oh yeah you’re P1.’ We came in, the rain kept coming down and no one being on track makes it worse. I went back out and I was pretty sure that it would be difficult to improve. Actually in the last lap it was getting close, but there was more rain in the two Lesmos and I think that made it a lot more difficult. Even me, I improved Sector 1 by four tenths or something on my dash, then went into Lesmo 1 and it just didn’t turn. I knew at that point it was kind of safe but obviously we had the speed in the first run and that kept us up there.
FIA Formula 2: Congratulations today, well done. Zhou we’re going to move on to you. Your third front row start of the season, is this a result you can be satisfied with today?
Guanyu Zhou: Yeah I’m definitely happy. It was tricky out there with the damp conditions. It’s the first time I experienced from the car such a slippery track and I think the track was changing a bit with every lap. The first run, in my first push lap I went wide and managed to get a good lap time at the end. Afterwards everybody pitted after the red flag and the rain was getting heavier, especially in Sector 2. We decided to go out quite late, I think I was the last car to head out from the pits, and we improved again in the last lap, in Sector 1, but I just went off again in Turn 4. The new tarmac surface made it extra slippery out there. I’m happy to bring the team a front row start here, but also to represent Renault Academy for Anthoine [Hubert], to just try to make him proud, do my best, and I wish Juan [Manuel Correa] a speedy recovery as well.
FIA Formula 2: Well done today. You’re yet to finish higher than third place though, from the times that you have started on the front row. Do you feel ready now to go better than that tomorrow?
Zhou: Yeah. In the past it’s been close, many times, and I think the main target is to always put in a good performance in qualifying so you’re always up there, straight away from the front. But if the race is long, especially in Monza, that’s the kind of place where someone can win from outside the top 10. Anything could happen. I’m still trying to do my best. A podium would still be nice for the championship, but having my first victory would be very nice.
FIA Formula 2: Good luck tomorrow. Nikita we’re going to move across to you. Your best qualifying result of the year, by some distance, and you’re previous best was last weekend in Spa so do you think you’ve found a little something in qualifying now?
Nikita Mazepin: Yes. Starting from Spa we had some big changes internally from my side, and from the team’s side. We used the summer break efficiently and in Spa, as everybody said, it was a mixed weekend in terms of obviously a good qualifying for me and then one lap in the race and that was it. I gained a little bit of confidence through the Spa weekend but obviously it was important for myself and the team to show ourselves that we have improved and we’re on the right way to fix our season. The first part of the season was as far from perfect as it could have been, so it was good to find a way. Let’s show what we can do in the race tomorrow.
FIA Formula 2: Speaking of the race, your best finish so far this season is eighth place. What’s the target when starting so high up the grid?
Nikita: Well at least keeping it. To be honest, like I said, this year has been very difficult for me and to qualify third today was a breakthrough. My main target is at least keeping third and to be honest I’m quite confident that if it’s a good start and we get through the first two corners it could be a good race.
FIA Formula 2: Thank you very much. Callum, we’ll just return to you finally. As you mentioned earlier you are the only entry for your team this weekend, and that means less data from the track running you’re getting as well. Is it going to tricky to try and turn pole position into a win tomorrow?
Callum: Yeah, but obviously you have last year’s data for the races and stuff, but already it was kind of weird going into the quali because last year also the practice was damp. The data was non-comparable. It works, though it’s more negative than anything else, but we’ve got to do the best job we can. Already we’ve done a great job in quali, but the race… Yeah. There’s a few things that hopefully we’ve worked on and can be better, especially the starts. It’s really not been amazing this year, but hopefully from the front we can change that. Strategy and things like that is always something that you do individually. I’ll work on that all tomorrow, see what we can do, and get the best result possible. I think a Feature Race podium is a good result. The win is what I would like to go for. Maiden pole and maiden win would be awesome, but after some disasters like Monaco it’s about time to get a good result.