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F2 stars react to “dangerous” wet conditions of Melbourne qualifying

by Ida Wood

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Formula 2 qualifying in Melbourne was hit by a rainstorm that prompted race control to red flag it as drivers found conditions “dangerous” and “not possible” to drive in.

No laptimes were set before the the field were summoned to the pits as the rain intensified and several drivers crashed. After a lengthy break – with the session clock stopped – the FIA’s medical car recced the track and then qualifying restarted.

The rain paused, but surface water meant spray and aquaplaning remained problematic even as the 22-car field displaced water from the racing line. Formula Scout asked the top three qualifiers how extreme the conditions were, and if they had experienced similar conditions before.

“It was a really difficult condition, especially I had really big aquaplaning,” replied DAMS’ poleman Ayumu Iwasa. “I was thinking that I was not able to drive anymore. If the rain was not stopping at all, I think it was not possible to continue.

“But the rain stopped, so that’s why we were able to do qualifying. Then also the condition was getting better and better because a lot of cars were running on the track. It was really difficult, I think the amount of rain was almost [everywhere].”

Iwasa noted low track temperatures led to tyre warm-up struggles, which delayed being able to push, and ART Grand Prix’s front-row man Theo Pourchaire concurred.

“In the rain it’s very difficult to warm them up. It was very fun session. It was very difficult, mentally as well to keep the car on the track, to have oversteer snaps every corner. I’m very proud of this P2.”

He said to Formula Scout: “At the very, very beginning it was on the dangerous side. It was no visibility at all. In the end it’s the race director’s decision [to stop].”

“It was very tough, even in a straight line, to be flat. One of the most difficult track conditions I had in my career. Fun, but dangerous.”

His team-mate Victor Martins added: “It’s the track layout that makes it more difficult than somewhere else, because on the raining side I have experienced more water on the track in Formula 3.

“I can remember Spa-Francorchamps in 2021 there was quite a lot. But here with all the white lines from the road [markings], it’s really slippery. And with the straights that are really turning every time we were having quite a lot of aquaplaning. So I think it’s the track layout, and with the white lines was quite dangerous to be honest.

“I was complaining a bit on the [radio] on that, that it was maybe a bit better to actually wait until it was becoming better. And then it became better, and straight away the water was a lot better and we didn’t have that much aquaplaning and it was driveable.”

It was Martins’ first F2 experience in the wet, and he echoed Pourchaire on the mental challenge and “catching the car in the corners because it was really tricky in the fast corners”.

Fellow rookie Ollie Bearman, who crashed early on, said: “At the start, I aquaplaned off. I was trying to bring the car back to the box as it was too dangerous to complete a lap, but I completely lost it. I think it maybe was too wet for the green flag.”