Jake Hughes on VAR’s pace: ‘I’m very happy so far’

The F2 Sprint Race at Jeddah was very much a tale of two halves. Three safety car restarts and a pit-lane penalty for pole sitter Dennis Hauger were the highlights in a chaotic race. Ultimately, it was Liam Lawson who was victorious, with Jüri Vips and Jake Hughes joining him on the podium. Hughes however was disqualified post-race as a result of a technical non-conformity regarding the plank. 

By Tyler Foster

Prior to this disqualification, Hughes spoke to F1 Feeder Series and selected media about the pace of the Van Amersfoort Racing car and his opportunities in the Feature Race on Sunday.

After starting on Pole, Dennis Hauger led the field for the first half of the race until the second safety car was brought out. In an odd series of events, the Race Director gave the call for the cars to proceed through the pit lane before changing his mind and closing the pit lane seconds later.

Unfortunately, Hauger was told by his team to enter the pits despite the lights at pit entry showing that it was closed. He was the only driver to go through the pit lane, which subsequently gave Calan Williams the lead. To make matters worse, Hauger was given a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for his pitlane excursion.

At the restart, it was Hughes who made the overtake on Williams for the lead of the race. The Van Amersfoort Racing driver had gambled on the soft compound tyre and it looked to have paid off, but in the final few laps his tyres began to wear at an increasing rate which left him vulnerable to the rapid combo of Lawson and Vips behind. 

Lawson made the easy overtake into Turn 1 and then took off for the win. On the final lap, Vips managed to close the gap to a matter of a couple of tenths and in a photo-finish out dragged the Brit to the finish line to snatch second place off Hughes. This still was a massive achievement for Hughes and VAR, with it being the first time that either had been on the podium. 

Disqualification & expectations

Hours after the race however, the 27-year-old was disqualified as a result of a technical non-conformity regarding the plank. It is clear that VAR have got serious pace with Hughes, who throughout both qualifying sessions so far this year has been competitive. We asked the Brit what he thought about his chances for Sunday’s Feature Race and what he thought of his team’s pace so far this season.

“My expectations tomorrow? I mean I never like to put expectation on what will happen, not least at this track. Obviously, things can change in a split second, so I think we will take lessons from today. At least we will know how long we expect the soft tyre to last. With that being said, every race is its own race and you have to react to it.”

“Then, on the pace of the car, I’m very happy so far with what I have underneath me. Yes, we’re not getting it right every single lap and every single session, but that’s kind of to be expected with a new team and at some point, hopefully in the near future, maybe at the test we have after Jeddah, we will learn a lot there. Maybe try and narrow that goalpost of our understanding. Then we can be there or at least repeat what we did on the first set in Bahrain in qualy and the first set in qualifying here where we were in P1. Hopefully carry something like that towards the end of the session also.”

Hughes will start from P9 for the Feature Race on Sunday, with MP Motorsport’s Felipe Drugovich on Pole. Incidentally, it was Drugovich who benefitted from Hughes’ Sprint Race disqualification, moving up from P4 to P3 and scoring his first podium of the season.

Header photo credit: VAR

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