A Red Bull–liveried car in wet conditions facing to the left

Iwasa: Melbourne F2 pole lap was ‘not so great’ despite six-tenth gap

For the third time in his Formula 2 career, DAMS’ Ayumu Iwasa took pole position after successfully tackling an extremely wet qualifying session in Melbourne on Friday. Afterwards, he spoke to Feeder Series and selected media about the pole lap itself, admitting that it was far from perfect.

By Tyler Foster

Instead of Melbourne’s characteristic sunny skies, a vicious downpour greeted the F2 paddock on Friday afternoon for qualifying. So intense was the rain that some drivers, including Australia native Jack Doohan, suggested that qualifying should be red-flagged early on.

The red flag did come out four and a half minutes into the session for debris on the track left by Ollie Bearman and Jak Crawford, who had separate incidents. As the rain stopped, however, the track surface slowly began to improve, and drivers began to attempt flying laps once the session resumed. Iwasa placed himself comfortably in the top five throughout the majority of the session and topped it off with a lap that put him more than six-tenths clear of his nearest rival, ART Grand Prix’s Théo Pourchaire.

“It was really difficult, especially at the beginning. I was not able to push straight away because of the aquaplaning. Also, I was struggling to get speed with the warm-up as well, but once I got the temperature in the tyre, I was able to push,” he said. “It was a really positive session.”

Mistakes in the final sector

Despite his large gap over Pourchaire, Iwasa told Feeder Series that he would not put this lap on the same level as his maiden F2 pole lap last year at the Hungaroring.

“The pole lap was not so great, to be honest. I had some mistakes in the last sector, but still it was purple,” Iwasa said. “I think it was not better than Hungary. Hungary was quite a good lap for me. I think what I was feeling was really similar to Imola [last year] because the condition was quite similar, a bit more wet today. But the car performance was feeling really similar as well so I was feeling good speed.

“The car control capacity, for example, in this condition is really important with the wet. I think also, we are trying to improve the car performance, even for dry conditions and wet conditions, because since the beginning of this season in Bahrain, we didn’t have good pace in the race. That’s what we are trying now, so I think it worked this week a lot.”

No difference in performance

In the feature race on Sunday, Iwasa will have to contend with the two rapid ART Grand Prix cars of Pourchaire and Victor Martins, who qualified second and third respectively. Having finished seventh in a dry free practice earlier on Friday, Iwasa said he had no preference between wet and dry conditions for attempting to defend his pole. 

“Honestly, I’m not feeling so much difference [in] performance between the dry and wet,” he said. “I was also feeling good in the dry conditions this morning, so I think I will be able to perform well in dry conditions as well. I think in the wet condition, it will be better because I will be able to have a good view from P1. I think that will be quite a big margin compared to other drivers, but I don’t care about the conditions at the moment.”

The two points Iwasa earned for his pole position now place him second in the drivers’ standings, tied on points with leader Ralph Boschung. This hands the 21-year-old Japanese star a great chance to take the championship lead with a favourable result in Sunday’s race. So far this season, he has also outperformed his five Red Bull Junior Team colleagues in the series, which may directly influence his future opportunities with the F1 team. 

“There are some programs in the Red Bull Junior [Team]. For example, I have simulator sessions as normal, and then also we have physical testing to prepare the physical for the F1,” he explained. “We have a good program to find the right direction to improve myself as a racing driver. … What they told me is just [that] I need to push and to do the best results as much as I can and that’s it.”

Header photo credit: Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool


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