After four seasons in Formula 2, Louis Delétraz left the single-seater world for the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series in 2021. The Swiss driver sat down on the latest episode of the Feeder Series Podcast to talk about his time in F2 and MP Motorsport’s quick rise to the top.
By Grégoire Devaux
The year 2022 was an amazing one for Louis Delétraz. After having decided to quit Formula 2 and the single-seater world the previous season, the native of Geneva won the European Le Mans Series in the LMP2 category with Prema Orlen Racing.
The runner-up of the 24 hours of Le Mans last season affirmed on the Feeder Series Podcast that he had no regrets about his choice. “I reached a point where it was very successful in single-seaters, but to get into Formula 1 you need money, politics and good timing. I never won Formula 2.
“There were really good drivers, so I have no regret. There wasn’t anywhere to go in single-seater. I enjoyed America so much. I rediscovered racing and had so much fun.”
Aged 25, Delétraz appears delighted to become a professional racing driver, highlighting the difference between sports cars and feeder series. “I became a factory driver and a professional. In Formula 2 and Formula 3, you work as a professional but you’re not one yet. It’s either you make it to Formula 1 or you find something else.”
The Swiss driver told Feeder Series that he has sealed a deal in European Le Mans Series for 2023, in which he will compete alongside his IMSA SportsCar Championship commitments with Acura.
The challenges of being a rookie
Delétraz competed in F2 for four full years between 2017 and 2020. Starting in the final race of the GP2 Series in 2016 before a full campaign in 2017, he joined Charouz for their inaugural season in F2 in 2018. Despite finishing in a respectable 10th place in the standings, Delétraz reminds us of the challenges of entering Formula 2 in a team without experience.
“Being a rookie in Formula 2 is really tough, especially when you’re not entering a top team. There are a few teams that have some experience and can teach a young driver. But my first season was with Charouz, a new team. People there were very nice and talented. The data engineers were great, but we didn’t know anything.
We were learning but we were learning too slow comparing to experienced teamsLouis Delétraz on driving in F2 with a new team
“Formula 2 is all about knowledge. You have one set of tyres to practice, then you go straight to qualifying and straight to the race. You don’t have time to adapt. We were learning, but we were learning too slow comparing to experienced teams.”
His season with Charouz caught the interest of Carlin, a far more established team in the feeder series ladder. The British side had just won the teams’ championship with Sérgio Sette Câmara and Lando Norris, who finished runner-up behind George Russell.
Joining such an experienced team was a big step in Delétraz’s career. “When I joined Carlin and I went to the workshop, they were telling me everything about the tyre, the setup, approach, and driving. I was a different driver.”
After an improved eighth place with three podiums, Delétraz decided to go back to Charouz for the 2020 season. With three full Formula 2 seasons under his belt, including one in a prestigious team, the Swiss driver easily dominated his rookie teammate, Pedro Piquet. In the Feeder Series Podcast, he opened up about this comeback to his former team and the challenge for his teammate.
I was able to bring my experience to Charouz and we had this strong seasonLouis Delétraz on returning to Charouz in 2020
“I was able to bring my experience to Charouz and we had this strong season. As a rookie it was probably harder for [Piquet]. The confidence I had, he didn’t have it. He was a really good driver. If he had carried on, he would have been fine. It’s really important to be in F2 at the right place and the right time.”
MP’s rise to the top
Delétraz tested with MP Motorsport in Abu Dhabi shortly after announcing that he was leaving F2 at the end of the season, but if he hadn’t decided to quit the single-seater world at that time, things could have been totally different.
MP’s rise to the top was particularly remarkable last season with Felipe Drugovich’s drivers’ title. However, Delétraz was already stunned by the performance of the car back at the 2020 Abu Dhabi post-season test.
“I almost went to MP in 2021 before switching to sports cars. I announced that I was stopping F2 after Abu Dhabi 2020, but I got a call from them. We dominated the test there, and I had a second thought on my decision. But it was time to leave.
“When I tested that car, the first thing I said is I’ve never felt so much grip in high speed. I think they found something. I genuinely think they found a way to set the car up. It’s the only F2 car I’ve driven that’s had this something and maybe some other teams have found out by now. It was so interesting to see them become so strong suddenly.”
It’s the only F2 car I’ve driven that’s had this somethingLouis Delétraz on testing for MP in 2020
With a line-up composed of Richard Verschoor and Lirim Zendeli, substituted by Jack Doohan and Clément Novalak for the last two rounds of the season, MP Motorsport retained their sixth place in the teams’ championship in 2021 – the same result as in the preceding season.
However, 2022 was the year of redemption for the Dutch side, as they won both the drivers’ and teams’ championship with Felipe Drugovich and Clément Novalak.
Header photo credit: Louis Delétraz
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