It was a promising start to my 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship season in Bahrain. Although we didn’t get the results I was hoping for in my first weekend with Trident, the potential is there.
First of all it’s been great settling into my new team. I’ve been learning all the unfamiliar faces during pre-season testing and we have built up a good working relationship in a short period of time.
Our first day of the season got off to a great start as we were competitive straight away in free practice. Even though it wasn’t qualifying, to be third quickest behind only the two DAMS cars is very positive, but I knew that everyone would take a step forward in qualifying and was well aware that my lap would have to been clean to keep up with them.
Annoyingly, I didn’t quite get the maximum potential out of the car, having made a couple of mistakes on my fastest lap so we had to settle for ninth. The team could see on the data that without those errors it could have been sixth, so I was admittedly a bit frustrated with my performance. The team also chose an aggressive strategy where we only had fuel for one lap, whereas others had two, so it had to be perfect.
However I’m satisfied with ninth. It was by no means a disaster, plus it’s always good to start the season inside the top 10, especially when you are with a new team. Also I was able to gauge that Trident has put together a good car for me.
In the Feature Race the pace made me quite happy. I fought with Mick Schumacher for more than half the race. It was a good scrap between us and ultimately we were battling for the all-important eighth place for reverse grid pole.
Having overtaken Schumacher I pulled a two-second gap so that he couldn’t get DRS and was sitting pretty. Then the electronics issue hit me. The steering wheel failed and it did a system reboot so was switched off for about four seconds, during which time I couldn’t change gear or use DRS, had no radio and then lost drive. Zhou and Schumacher overtook me while I moved aside.
Once the reboot was done everything went back to normal and I could start to reel them in again, but the gap was too big by then. The knock-on effect of that was the incident with Jordan King where he hit me into the first corner, making me lose control of the car and even more time.
We were starting quite far back in the Sprint Race because of all this, so the team decided to go for a bit of a drastic set-up. It was a major change that in the end did not work at all well. Even if we did a pit stop like some of the other drivers I doubt there was the pace to score points because both me and my team-mate were massively struggling with rear tyre degradation.
Overall the weekend hinted at our raw speed and potential. I was very happy with the performance in the first race but we can still improve the long-run speed a little bit.
Next up is Baku, one of the hardest circuits F2 visits all season. We can be quite competitive there given I have some good experience of the track and it’s where I equalled my best ever F2 result last year. Hopefully that means we’ll be able to maximise our performance.