Théo Pourchaire enters the final two races of his FIA Formula 2 Championship career with a 25-point lead over Frederik Vesti. If he outscores Vesti by two points in today’s Sprint Race, he will earn the 2023 title.
He starts both the Sprint Race and tomorrow’s Feature Race from 14th after a difficult Qualifying session, which he entered just half an hour after finishing free practice 1 with Alfa Romeo Racing in Formula 1.
We caught up with the ART Grand Prix driver and Sauber junior in the Yas Marina paddock for an exclusive chat about his weekend an hour before the race. Here’s what he had to say…
InsideF2: You did free practice 1 with Alfa Romeo yesterday. How was it like going from that car into the F2 car so quickly?
Théo Pourchaire: “It’s not easy. I mean, a Formula 2 is really different compared to the F1 car, but I enjoyed a lot the FP1. I’m happy with the job I did with the team because the time I drove an F1 car was one year ago, so I was a bit lost at the beginning.
“But then thanks to the simulator I did all year, I was ready with all the procedures. … I think I could improve lap by lap, and at the end, I was fast so FP1 went very well.”
InsideF2: The track conditions were quite similar going from that to the F2 session. Do you think it helped you to have that extra track time from a technical perspective?
TP: “I think it was good to drive a lot yesterday because the last time I drove a race car was two and a half months ago in Monza. So yesterday was really busy, but in the same time I had the chance to drive a lot.
“I think doing the FP1 didn’t help me so much. I would say I was a bit lost going back to the F2 car, really tired physically because I did a lot of laps in FP1, so [it’s] not easy.
“I would have preferred to do only F2, but in the same time, I’m really happy. I had the opportunity after Mexico, after what happened in Mexico [Pourchaire was entered but set no laps], to drive again in the F1 and to get some mileage and to drive well and to help the team. They were happy – that’s the most important – so it’s okay.”
InsideF2: Several of the other drivers I talked to said kind of the same thing as you did. Can you talk me through how that Formula 2 qualifying session went? I know it was maybe not the result you were hoping for.
TP: “Not the result I was hoping for. P14 is my worst qualifying, I think, in F2 overall. It’s crazy, but it’s part of the job. I mean, most of the drivers struggled. Vesti qualified P9, [Ollie] Bearman 17, [Isack] Hadjar 8.
“Of course, the poleman drove in F1. But I don’t know what was his programme with the F1 car. You never know. Most of the drivers struggled, and it’s pretty not easy to do that.
“We had only half an hour between the FP1 and the qualifying, and we had some issues with the car as well, so hopefully now, all the issues are solved for the race. I’m feeling confident. Qualifying was like this, but the races are different.”
InsideF2: You’re a bit out of position compared to where you normally are. How are you approaching this race with the title also on the line this weekend?
TP: “I mean starting from P14, you need to go forward, for sure only forward, and not think too much. Because I think I have a great pace, great car for sure, so I will be strong in the races. I just need to take care in the first few corners, and after that, let’s see what happens. Every point will be important to win this championship, so even the fastest lap, I need to go for it.”
Victor has said he is not really thinking about the teams’ championship and is just focused on his race. How about you – are you thinking about you or are you just doing your own thing.
TP: “I mean I’m focused on my championship, for sure. I want to win it, but right now I just need to think about doing a good Sprint Race. Let’s see. I think we can do it.”
Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited