Hitech Pulse-Eight driver Isack Hadjar said he struggled with car balance en route to eighth in Qualifying for the FIA Formula 2 Championship’s final round at Yas Marina, having run the session just 30 minutes after completing free practice 1 in Formula 1 for Red Bull Racing.
Hadjar, a member of the Red Bull Junior Team, began Friday with Free Practice in F2 but then headed over to the F1 paddock for the premier category’s first free practice session.
In August, Franz Tost had said that Hadjar would be driving for AlphaTauri in the Abu Dhabi free practice, but later that day, the French driver told me, surprised, that this would not be happening.
In the end, Hadjar did appear with AlphaTauri at the Mexican Grand Prix and with Red Bull at Abu Dhabi, with reigning FIA Formula E world champion Jake Dennis piloting the F1 champion team’s other car.
The French driver completed 20 laps and ended the session 17th fastest, 1.172 seconds off leader George Russell and 0.036 off Dennis. He told InsideF2 in the paddock afterwards that it was difficult to draw comparisons between the two cars because of the differences in circuit characteristics between the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez and the Yas Marina Circuit.
“You can’t compare, to be honest, because it’s two different tracks. One’s really low downforce, and here, it’s pretty high. Obviously, I had the better feeling today because of the conditions, but I can’t really compare both cars. This one [was] really impressive.”
Thirty minutes after wrapping up his FP1 running, Hadjar was back in the F2 car for qualifying, one of five drivers to take part in both sessions. He said the extra track time put him more at ease mentally if not physically.
“Technically, I don’t think it brings much,” Hadjar said. “It’s more, I think, in your mind. [Driving in FP1] prepares you a bit better. It’s a good practice to drive the track before, but apart from that, not much. It’s so different between the two.”
Hadjar was ninth after the first runs in Qualifying before improving to eighth on his final run. Of the group that jumped from F1 to F2 cars, Hadjar failed to beat pole-sitter Jack Doohan but qualified ahead of Frederik Vesti in ninth, Théo Pourchaire in 14th and Ollie Bearman in 17th.
The 19-year-old told InsideF2 he struggled with car balance throughout the session as he readjusted to the Dallara F2 2018 from the RB19.
“It was pretty tough, to be fair. The first run was really weird for me. I had a weird feeling with the car. The second run was a bit better. The first run was just re-adapting to it. Most of the guys who had done free practice struggled a bit [going] back to the F2,” Hadjar said.
“The balance was a bit … too conservative, but it was good enough for eighth, I guess. With the balance we have, we have something to play for tomorrow.”
Hadjar will start third for the Abu Dhabi Sprint Race, which gets underway at 16:20 local (12:20 GMT) this afternoon.
Credit: Getty Images via Red Bull Content Pool