After securing his third consecutive Pole Position on Friday, Prema’s Oscar Piastri won his second Feature Race of the season at the Sochi Autodrom on Sunday morning to extend his Formula 2 Championship lead over fellow Alpine Academy driver Guanyu Zhou to 36 points.
By Tyler Foster
“Another Feature Race win – two in a row! I am very happy with that, it was a very tough race with no Safety Cars. Théo [Pourchaire] was pushing me the whole way. I’m very happy I could pull that one off after a bit of a disappointing day yesterday.”
The Australian led from the front and did so until lap 9, when he made his mandatory pitstop onto the medium compound tyre. Théo Pourchaire, who started 3rd but jumped Carlin’s Jehan Deruvala at the start, tried the overcut and pitted the following lap. He came back out in front of Piastri, but on cold tyres was passed in a short battle at the start of lap 10.
“My engineer told me on the radio that [Guanyu] Zhou was in 8th after the first corner. That was good. Then I was very occupied for the rest of the race with trying to keep the victory.”
From there on, Piastri didn’t look back and had to contend with those ahead of him on the alternate strategy. For several laps, both Piastri and Pourchaire took turns in passing those ahead. Once they became the two leading cars on track, Piastri held on to claim his third victory of the season ahead of Pourchaire and Deruvala.
“Probably the most critical part of the race was trying to get through the guys on the alternate strategy quickly. In terms of overall time lost, I don’t think I lost anything and I think I maybe gained a bit. I knew it was critical to open the gap if I could.”
“The degradation wasn’t massive, it was kind of a gradual drop off. I was struggling a bit for the last lap or two and Théo [Pourchaire] was catching me but I think the degradation was pretty much how we expected it.”
After the race on his cooldown lap, Piastri remarked over the radio that this race was one of the toughest of his career. He was asked by F1 Feeder Series and selected media during the press conference, what exactly about the race it was that made it so difficult.
“I think firstly because I had Théo behind me for the whole race and the gap was never bigger than about two seconds. There was a lot of pressure so I couldn’t make any mistakes. Secondly, with no safety cars there were no breathers at all or any time to reset. Doing 28 laps with the pit-stop and doing an outlap on cold tyres is not easy. Théo came out ahead and I had to get back past him. It was a tricky race mainly because of the pressure but also just having no stoppages at all. It was flat-out the whole way and Théo was most definitely keeping me on my toes.”
Rookies in F1
Piastri has continued his excellent form but is still pondering over his future. He was asked whether the new mandatory ‘rookie’ running for F1 teams in FP1 sessions for 2022 would help ease the pain of possibly having to sit on the sidelines and be a ‘development driver’.
“It would be helpful for all the young guys in getting those FP1 sessions. That’s what we are targeting at the moment. It probably would most likely lead to a year on the sidelines which is never ideal but I’m not the first person that has happened to and I won’t be the last. I still need to win this championship to make that happen. That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to take if it leads to a race seat for the following year.”
With two rounds remaining in the Formula 2 Championship, Piastri has now gained the largest lead of the season (36 points ahead). He is seemingly beginning to pull away from the rest of the field but still maintained that the title fight is far from over.
“I’m not going to call myself the [title] favourite but I think my lead is the biggest it’s been and I feel like I’m driving well and the team has been doing a great job with the car. We’ve been strong since Round 1 and we’ve been on the podium at every Feature Race except for Bahrain. That’s a testament to the whole package. I’m certainly glad I’m in the position I’m in and not having to try and chase up.”
“It’s nice to have that gap with two and half months to dream about that but I still want to extend it more and make it a little bit more comfortable because with the format this year everything can change with the blink of an eye.”
With a two month break between Round 6 and 7, the next two rounds see the F2 paddock travel to the Middle East for a back-to-back. Firstly, we travel to an entirely new circuit; the Jeddah Street Circuit in Saudi Arabia, and secondly to the finale at Yas Marina in the UAE. We asked Oscar his thoughts on the new circuit and what he would be filling his time doing during the long break.
“It’s a new circuit for us all obviously. The layout looks very unique, not really something we’ve ever seen before and it’s looks pretty difficult for overtaking so I think qualifying is going to be the name of the game. Should be interesting for sure.”
“Sleep firstly. It’s a well-known fact that I love my sleep. Besides that, just getting ready for Jeddah and Abu Dhabi obviously. The end of the year is quite compact; back-to-back, so just being ready physically for that. A bit of downtime as well. I can’t go back to Australia so that’s out of the question. I’ll see if Alpine has anything planned for me but we’ll most likely try to figure out the plans for next year as well because we certainly have a lot of time to discuss it now.”
Formula 2 action returns to the streets of Jeddah between 3rd – 5th December.
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