Louis Delétraz made a welcome return to the FIA Formula 2 Championship podium at the Sochi Autodrom this weekend.
Having had his Monza race weekend ruined by contact earlier this month, the Swiss driver was keen to rediscover the form that earned him a pair of P2 finishes at Monaco and Silverstone when the series arrived in Russia for its penultimate round.
A P6 performance during Friday’s practice laid the foundations for the ADSS-supported driver to secure P7 on the grid for Saturday’s opening Feature Race.
“The start to the weekend was okay. You always want more but sometimes it’s not there. I felt pretty comfortable, though, because we knew the first race would be under strategy and we could race from there,” Louis explained.
Starting Saturday’s 28-lap race on the supersoft tyre, Louis immediately moved forward before tyre degradation took hold just before the pit stop window opened on lap 6.
That dropped the 22-year-old down the order but he returned to full speed once Pirelli’s medium compound rubber was fitted to his Carlin machine.
A fastest lap of the race on lap 9 signalled the beginning of Louis’ titanic fightback and with three laps to go he had moved up to P3.
His podium hopes then came under threat from the hard-charging Luca Ghiotto who was running to the alternate tyre strategy and had just pitted for supersoft rubber.
The Italian overhauled Louis on the penultimate lap and it looked like the battle was over. However, Louis had other ideas.
A sublime push on the final lap allowed Louis to catch Ghiotto on the long run down to Turn 13 and he spectacularly passed his rival around the outside at the next corner.
“After the pit stop I emerged in free air and could do my own pace. My car felt extremely quick and I could really push,” Louis explained. “I caught five or six seconds to [Nicholas] Latifi but when Ghiotto came out I thought it was game over.
“However, his tyres dropped off the cliff. I had DRS and had to go for it. Passing him made for an exciting end to the race and I was thrilled to secure my first Feature Race podium so late. It was a special feeling.”
Sadly, Louis was unable to repeat his result during Sunday’s shortened Sprint Race after a first lap incident meant he couldn’t climb any higher than P14 at the chequered flag.
With eight weeks until the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi, Louis was pleased to leave Russia with another podium in the bag.
“We had great pace, strategy and a fantastic car in Sochi, and the whole team did an incredible job – so thank you to them,” he said. “We hope we can take those things to Yas Marina and make another good performance.”