Thoughts from De Vries, Latifi and Ilott
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 Sochi. We are joined by pole sitter Nyck de Vries for ART Grand Prix, in second place is Nicholas Latifi for DAMS and third is Callum Ilott for Sauber Junior Team by Charouz. Nyck, it’s your fifth pole position this season, and it takes you one step closer to that Drivers’ Championship. Just how good was your final lap to secure that pole?
Nyck de Vries: Good enough, but I was very pleased with it. Going into qualifying, just getting ready and everything, I felt good about it. I don’t know why but I had a gut feeling that we would be there to fight for the pole. On the first set we did an okay job but it wasn’t a great lap. I thought there was still a bit more to come. There was a bit of track evolution. I kind of felt that it had to be done on the second set. Nicholas and DAMS have been pushing us very much from this morning, but nevertheless we kept it together and the team gave me a super good car. We got a nice lap together and secured our fifth pole of the season.
FIA Formula 2: We had some weather in the air as well, people watching the radar, so did that put any pressure on the first runs? Was there an added edge to the fact that it was Nicholas that you were trying to beat to pole?
Nyck: A little bit. Obviously we’ve had some rain over the past race weekends and it kind of mixes things up a bit. From our side at least we just wanted to have a clean session. We were kind of waiting but we didn’t want to go out too early. It looked like it was going to stay away for our session. Once you go out on the second set you know that when you start the lap that’s it. That’s always the case and the pressure is no different than otherwise. I’m just happy with this pole.
FIA Formula 2: Congratulations today. Nicholas, moving on to you. You were sitting top of the timesheets for a lot of that session. Did you think you had it in the bag at the end of the first runs?
Nicholas Latifi: No definitely not at the end of the first run. At a track like this, and especially whenever we have the supersoft tyres, normally as a driver you can find quite a lot between the first stint and the second set. I knew I was going to have to improve quite a bit, and I knew as soon as I crossed the line that I hadn’t improved enough on the second set. I was very frustrated. It was a really bad lap. I was already thinking at the first corner to abort it but then I didn’t want to lose the sequence and get some traffic. I think it’s one of the worst laps I’ve ever done in qualifying. I’m disappointed obviously, for myself because I could have had a better chance to fight for the pole at the end, and for the team because they gave me a car that was definitely deserving of it. Anyway, I’m still on the front row. It’s not all lost. For sure it would have been nice to have the four points but we’re still at the sharp end and you get the big points in the race tomorrow. We’ll push for that.
FIA Formula 2: You mentioned points, we’re going to keep asking Nyck about the title picture but from your point of view does the fact that it could be decided this weekend change anything about how you approach racing? Especially with the two of you on the front row.
Nicholas: For me honestly it doesn’t change much. Obviously mathematically it’s still possible but realistically it will be very difficult and it’s more in Nyck’s hands than in my hands really. I could win all of the next four races and if Nyck just scores some ‘average’ points he’s still going to seal the title. It’s more down to him, but it’s not going to change my approach for tomorrow’s race or any of the other races. I’m still going to push for the best performance. I’m quite confident that we’ll be very competitive in the race rain or dry – the weather is looking a bit iffy. This was a track we were really competitive at as a team last year, it was my best race, and as a team we finished one-two, so that definitely brings some confidence going into tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.
FIA Formula 2: Good luck tomorrow. Callum, moving on to you. Your second, consecutive appearance in this top three qualifying press conference. The conditions were mixed in Monza but did you expect to be so strong here this weekend?
Callum Ilott: No, not really. It was a tough track for the team here last year. I don’t think we even qualified in the top 10, so to come away with P3 is not bad – I’ll take that. There was a little bit more in it, but it was a good lap and I kept the pace the whole way. I was in the top four every lap, so not bad. It was a little bit pressured with the rain. I think we all tried to go out at the start and it was a bit bunched-up together, but I made the most it and did a good job. I’ll take it.
FIA Formula 2: You’ll have a good slipstream from these two off the line tomorrow into Turn 2. What’s going to be the key to trying to convert this into your first Feature Race podium?
Callum: Tyres [laughs]-
Nyck: -Wet or slicks? [Laughs]
Callum: I would hope for wets because they last longer for me! [Laughs]
Nicholas: [Laughs] Normally they don’t!
Callum: No normally not, but maybe! [Laughs] No. To do a better job with the tyres I think. In Monza, again, it wasn’t as bad but I do struggle at the end of the races. We keep improving and trying to make that better. It’s difficult. To be fair we made a big improvement on the starts, from all the previous races to Monza, and that showed. I think we’re still progressing and it’s getting there but there’s still some things I have to work on and still some things with the car that we have to do. We’re in a good window with the car for this weekend so I’m pretty happy and we’ll see what we can do.
FIA Formula 2: Thank you very much, good luck tomorrow. Nyck, returning to you. It’s going to be a question about the title-
Nyck: -I wasn’t expecting anything different [laughs].
FIA Formula 2: [Laughs] Four points closer to it after today, does it take the pressure off knowing that if you hold these positions you win the championship, or does it add it knowing that it’s in your hands right now?
Nyck: My future was obviously decided a couple of weeks ago, but last month was very intense in many different ways. At that stage people can question you but you remain focused and everything, and I just really wanted to make a point and show that I have a very high will, to show that we deserve it and that we should grab pole and win the race tomorrow. That’s where our priority and focus is and we’ll see where we are at the end of the weekend.