Louis Delétraz leapt into the lead of the Formula V8 3.5 drivers’ championship this weekend after fighting to overcome an early set-back at the penultimate round at Jerez, Spain.
Second place in Sunday’s race was the 19-year-old Swiss driver’s eighth podium of the year and keeps him on track to achieve his dream of securing the title in his rookie season.
But the weekend could have been even better for Louis, who finished Saturday’s opening race in fourth place – before being handed a controversial 10-second time penalty for a mid-turn collision with title rival Tom Dillmann. That meant Louis dropped out of the points.
Louis and his Fortec Motorsports team felt the penalty was undeserved but, unable to appeal it, they focused instead on making amends in race two.
Louis’ response was to claim his second Formula V8 3.5 pole position of the season, before racing to 18 points and another ‘best rookie’ trophy, after a close two-car fight with Egor Orudzhev earlier today.
“The weekend got off to a good start with good speed in the first practice sessions, even though P4 for race one didn’t really reflect that,” Louis explained. “I made a good start to the first race and was P2 at the first braking but in turn two I got hit from behind and pushed sideways and was passed by three cars – putting me in a fight for fourth with Dillmann.
“I attacked in the hairpin but he was able to cross me over and re-take the position. But it was close. I had the speed and I went to overtake again in the first right-hander at turn 10. I was half a car next to him, with my front wheels in line with his side-pod, when he turned in on me and there was contact. I carried on to finish fourth but the time penalty dropped me to 11th – and we lost 12 very important points.
“The team and I were not happy about it. We believe Dillmann should have given us space, according to the regulations, but the decision was made and we weren’t able to appeal it. The best answer I could offer was to put the car on pole today and that’s exactly what I did.”
Race two was all about Louis’ duel with Russian driver Orudzhev – the pair stretching way ahead of the rest of the field.
“I had an alright start but it seems that Orudzhev had a monster start from P5 and passed everyone – including me – and on the tight Jerez circuit I just couldn’t get past,” Louis said.
“He pitted early and I stayed out and did three lap records in a row, so I know my pace was good. We boxed because there was a yellow flag, and the chance of a safety car, but that went against our original strategy of going for as long as possible on our good tyres before putting on an older set for a short stint to the finish.
“Instead, we changed onto the old set earlier. The rears went off on the last few laps and I had to settle for P2. But 18 points got me the championship lead and that was the most important thing.”
Louis heads to next weekend’s final round in Barcelona three points ahead of Dillmann, with Matthieu Vaxiviere 24 points further back in third.
“The battle is really exciting,” Louis said. “To be honest, I didn’t expect to be leading the championship at this point because Dillmann had such a big advantage earlier in the year. But in the last two meetings we have made 43 points on him.
“The last few rounds have been very strong because I think the team and I have worked harder than anybody else. Now we want to keep the momentum and go and win this title.”