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F2 winner Maloney says early advantage triggered attacking approach

by Ida Wood

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Had he not changed his approach during the race, Zane Maloney may not have won Formula 2’s 2024 season opener.

The Rodin Motorsport driver started started eighth, and his rapid rise up to the lead in the first eight laps made it look like he attacked from the off. But he says that was not the case:

“It was an amazing race. I started with a great start, and then a good first two laps. I always put my car in the right place, which was good. And then after that, to be honest, I was happy to settle in my position and try to save the tyres a bit.

“But while saving the tyres I was still keeping up, so then I decided to just go for it, get in with the [battling] and then think about the tyres after that. Which I did. Worked out very well, and the team gave me a great car, so that’s the reason [I won].”

Since he will be start third for Saturday’s feature race, another win is in his sights.

“I didn’t think I was going to win today, but the plan was to try and win tomorrow,” admitted Maloney, who pre-event had emphasised that improved qualifying form was key to his victory prospects. In 2023 his average starting position was outside of the top 10, and a new car for 2024 meant a fresh start.

“The second we shook the car down in Barcelona, the feeling was good and we’ve turned out with a great understanding of the car. So I was very confident going into this weekend. To be honest, I was quite annoyed yesterday with my qualifying.”

Maloney was 0.067 seconds off pole, the closest he had ever been to first place in a competitive session in his F2 career.

“At the moment I’m looking at my quali pace. So it’s really nice to see how it’s paying off,” he added. “I think from [round two in] Jeddah on I’ll really know how much of a step I’ve made. I know that in myself I made quite a big step.”

Having been fastest in pre-season testing, Maloney has clearly clicked early with the Dallara F2 2024. From in the cockpit he thinks it is similar to its predecessor.

“For the team it’s quite different to set it up and get it working like the old car. But how I’m driving it is almost the same, and I guess it’s not much different to the old one. For sure we still can improve quite a lot. I think that over the year everyone will be developing the cars and just getting faster. But for now, everything’s quite similar.”

Despite his tyre advantage enabling the attack for victory, Maloney says degradation has been “very difficult” this weekend.

“Towards the end of the race, you can understand that there’s not much rubber left on the tyres, and some vibrations are staggering and they get quite big. But in general, I would say it’s similar to last year.”