Louis Delétraz will finally get his 2020 racing programme underway this weekend, when Austria’s Spielberg circuit hosts the opening round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship.
The global Covid-19 pandemic put the brakes on all motorsport activities shortly after Louis completed a successful pre-season test with his Charouz Racing Team in Bahrain at the beginning of March.
But with the travel restrictions now easing, the Formula 2 season will explode back into life this weekend for the first of three back-to-back events – two in Austria and one in Hungary. A further five events have been scheduled so far and others will be added in the Autumn.
Having been out of the cockpit for so long, Louis is understandably keen to get back on track.
“It’s really nice to be back because it’s been a long and frustrating wait,” the 23-year-old said. “We don’t know the whole calendar yet, but at least we can start racing again and moving forward – albeit under very tight restrictions.
“It’s definitely going to be a big start to the season with eight F2 events in 10 weeks but it will be the same for everyone. It will be four months since any of us have driven an F2 car so it won’t be easy. I expect we’ll see quite a few mistakes.”
Looking at the calibre of F2 drivers he’ll be lining up against on the grid, Louis – a Haas F1 Team reserve and test driver – won’t be underestimating anyone as he bids to win the F2 drivers title and catapult himself into the reckoning for a full-time F1 seat.
He said: “The competition in F2 is always super strong so I won’t be taking anyone lightly. My goal is to win the championship because myself and Charouz have quite a lot of experience. But it will still be super hard.
“I know my way around the tracks, car and championship but the new 18-inch wheels and revised tyre compounds will level things out a little. We’ll all have to learn about those things and nobody will be able to call upon any previous experience in that regard.”
As well as having to get to grips with a packed F2 schedule, Louis has also added two other important fixtures to his 2020 racing programme.
He’ll make his LMP1 debut with Rebellion Racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on 19-20 September and he’ll also race for the GPX Racing squad at Le Castellet in the GT World Challenge Europe on 13-15 November.
To keep sharp across all racing disciplines during lockdown, Louis turned to sim racing. It was a move that brought big success. As well as representing the Haas F1 Team in a series of virtual grands prix, he also won a pair of virtual F2 races, claimed a memorable win at the history-making 24h of Le Mans Virtual, and also won the SRO GT eSports title.
“The whole eSports thing was initially for fun rather than competition,” he explained. “But things quickly got serious as I was racing and winning.
“The Le Mans Virtual race was such a huge event with Rebellion and it was mega to take part in. To win the SRO title with GPX Racing and Porsche was also fantastic.
“We approached these races like they were real and everything behind the scenes was hugely professional.
“That keeps you sharp in the brain – and I hope I can benefit from that when we race for real this weekend.”
Louis’ first Spielberg race weekend will kick off on Friday with free practice at 12.55 and a 30-minute qualifying session at 17.00. Saturday’s Feature Race will go green at 16.45 while Sunday’s Sprint Race will start at 11.10 (all times are CET).