Had Formula 3 raced in Sochi last season, Jack Doohan says he’d have been “s***” himself, with the track playing almost entirely to his weaknesses at the time. Twelve months on, he’ll start on pole at the Russian circuit.
And after missing out on the title to Dennis Hauger, it’s a welcome reminder of how far he has come.
Doohan may not have secured the ultimate prize, but his pole on Friday afternoon means he’ll finish as the strongest average Qualifier of the grid. And if things go to plan in Race 3, he’ll have scored more points than Hauger on Sundays in total, while also matching him for wins and podiums in Race 3.
“There are no high-speed corners and all of them are one after another and 90 degrees. Before this season, this is a track where I’d have struggled tremendously,” said Doohan, speaking from his hote
“The difference has been huge, and I am really happy and grateful to the team because they have brought me a long way.
“We haven't had the perfect run, but we didn't make too many mistakes throughout the year. At some points, PREMA just had a pace advantage over us, but in terms of effort, I think we deserved it just as much as they did. Both the team and myself, we all put so much into it.
In terms of effort, I think we deserved it just as much as they did.
“I am a little bit disappointed, but we have to take the positives. To consistently show that we can be on top in Qualifying and in the races where you start from your qualifying positions is something that we can be proud of.”
Taking pole on Friday, with Hauger struggling to ninth, it looked as if Doohan had set himself up to take the title fight to the wire. But with the grid reversed for Race 1, and Hauger needing just six additional points to confirm the title, Doohan needed to do a lot better than his starting position of 12th.
That meant taking risks.
“At the start, I went for the outside at Turn 1, but I went in slightly deep and then tried to come back across. It is so tight at Turns 1 and 2 and there was an ART to the right of me, so I couldn’t really get back into position, and I bounced over a sausage curb.
“That cost me a few positions and from there I was just in the thick of it and scrambling. It wasn’t until the fourth or the fifth lap that everything calmed down.”
By that point, Hauger was provisionally on the podium and fighting for second. In contrast, Doohan was in 16th. The title race was all but over.
The emotions of that loss wouldn’t hit until he’d passed the chequered flag. Asked to sum up his feelings as he crossed the line, Doohan explained: “Huge emotions. What was really going through my mind, I wouldn’t be able to say, but I was a bit heartbroken knowing that it was all over.
“Although it was quite a stretch to beat Dennis (Hauger), I tried to keep faith the whole time. Coming into the race weekend, I knew that I could do it and that we could still win it, so when it was actually over, it kind of just all hit me.
“I was seriously bummed out and really just disappointed and quite low. Everything that we put into this year, the team deserved it.”
Doohan is a hugely positive character, and even through his current dejection, he cannot help but smile. If he can rebuild himself from a 2020 campaign that saw him fail to score a single point, then he can most certainly overcome the disappointment of finishing second in the same Championship.
If we all do a good job, then we can still take the Teams’ title and that would be awesome
It was those experiences in 2020 that enabled him to fight for the title this season. Each and every negative turned into some form of positive. Doing the same again between now and the start of 2022 will be high on his list of priorities.
The 18-year-old hopes to be on the Formula 2 grid in 2022 and confirmed that securing the right seat will be his main aim once he’s returned home from Russia.
But before any of that, he’s got a race to win. He’ll start from the front of the field on Sunday morning, with the Teams’ title still on the line. As things stand, Trident trail PREMA by 31 points, with 60 left to fight for.
“I want to make up for yesterday and I want to maximise the points for the team” he continued. “If we all do a good job, then we can still take the Teams’ title and that would be awesome for the team. That, and I want to finish the year off with three Race 3 wins.
“Before we left yesterday, I went and congratulated Dennis, and I also sent him a message, but more than anything right now, my focus is still on this weekend. We have one race to go, and I am waiting for the dust to settle. As much as I wanted to win, and as unhappy as I am that I didn’t, they did a good job and clearly deserved to win the title as well.
“After that, the natural the next step after a season like this would be Formula 2. The next few weeks and the time ahead will be about seeing what the options are and then finalising that. We want to put ourselves in a position to keep this form running into next year and hopefully do even better.”