A constructive pre-season testing programme has left Switzerland’s Louis Delétraz in confident mood as he makes the final preparations for the first race of his rookie season in the FIA F2 Championship later this month.
The 19-year-old completed the second of two pre-season tests at the Sakhir International Circuit in Bahrain on Friday and, together with his Racing Engineering squad, is now gearing up for the first F2 race of the season at the same track on 14-16 April.
The 2017 season will be Louis’ first in F2 – the recognised feeder championship into Formula One – and he’s worked hard to get to grips with the requirements of the category during a pair of three-day tests in Barcelona, Spain and Sakhir, Bahrain.
With six days of driving now behind him, which included practice race starts and pit stops, Louis is happy with the progress he has made and his prospects of being able to make a strong impression during what is sure to be a tough season of racing.
“I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made with my team during testing and I’m feeling confident for the year ahead,” the ADS Securities-supported driver explained.
“We still have a lot to learn because even when you’ve done six days of testing, it’s actually not a lot. But I’ve learned something new each time I’ve climbed in the car and now I’m really looking forward to the first race in a couple of weeks. That’s when we’ll really know where we are in terms of our true pace as everyone is racing under the same conditions.”
With a solid three days of running at Barcelona in March behind him, Louis’ primary focus at last week’s Bahrain test was to familiarise himself with the 5.41km track that is located in the arid Bahrain desert and will host the first round of competitive F2 action. He was also keen to improve his pace during the short runs which simulate qualifying competition.
“Our performance running was a bit of a struggle in Barcelona, so we worked hard on improving that in Bahrain. It wasn’t easy because the tyre degradation on the hot and abrasive Bahrain track is massive. But I completed some good preparations with my team before we came to the track and we had some good information to use in that situation.
“It’s quite tough to judge your pace in a test because people are doing lots of different things. But you know that the performance-running sessions in the morning are likely to show some times that are close to reality,” the 2016 Formula V8 3.5 runner up said.
“Based on what we did in Bahrain, I was quite happy with how we worked as a team and the speed we showed. There is still some work to do as a rookie but we improved and we are definitely heading in a good direction.”
Louis’ testing fortunes also received an unlikely boost during the first day of running in Bahrain, thanks to a spell of unexpected wet weather that doused the track in water.
That meant he could experience Pirelli’s wet weather tyres before the 22-race season gets underway.
He said: “Bahrain certainly isn’t the place where you expect to get some rain but it was a nice surprise! It meant I could drive the car in the wet for the first time and discover how the wet tyres are working. For me, it’s better to get this out of the way before the season starts rather than learning the wet tyres at Spa during a proper race weekend!”
With the pre-season testing programme now complete, Louis will travel to his Racing Engineering team’s headquarters in Spain later this week for a full debrief and to carry out some more valuable simulator work. He will then travel to Bahrain the following week for the opening race of the season.
“It’s a hugely exciting time for me,” he said. “I’m really comfortable in the F2 paddock and happy with my team. Now I want to get to the first race and see where we sit against the competition.
“The good thing for me is that during testing I don’t think we’ve really been far off the best pace and if we can put together all the things we have learned for the first race weekend I expect us to be competitive.”