While he’s disappointed that traffic around Monza wrecked his chances of securing a highly coveted top four spot in Qualifying, Jak Crawford is setting his sights high in hope of remaining in the 2022 Formula 3 title fight.
A frantic conclusion to the 30-minute session saw all 29 cars left in the running eagerly head out at the same time, leaving very little room around the Italian track for a clean lap. Fortunately for the PREMA Racing driver, he found himself in an ideal position on his preparation lap, staring down the rear wing of Championship leader Victor Martins.
While the slipstream did provide a handy boost of pace, the American driver was left frustrated that the cars that littered the track during his final attempt cost him a shot at moving further up the order. Nevertheless, he’s comforted by the fact that such a downside in Qualifying can turn around quickly as he seeks to move up from P8 in the Feature Race.
“It was really busy,” Crawford noted after the session. “Luckily, we weren’t first in the pit lane, so we had to just follow the others and stay behind just to get the all-important slipstream and we were able to do that. I had a good position, we were going for two push laps in a row and then there was a car in the second and third sector in front of me on my second push when I was on a lap that would have put me I think in the top four.
“It’s a real, real shame but it’s Monza, I’m sure there are other drivers that were also up on their lap when they got traffic. It’s a part of this racetrack, but a part of this racetrack is that we can race as well.
“It's very difficult, you have see what drivers are in front of you and then you have to make a gap based on that. I was behind Martins, so I knew I could be quite close, and I knew he wouldn’t make any big mistakes. I had a good positioning and it’s really difficult to get the positioning right.”
Despite the setback and the admission that there was more potential to unlock, Crawford is determined to find the positives in his quest to fight for the title. Whilst on the face of it, eighth sounds like a less than ideal result, with Isack Hadjar his only rival to qualify behind him, it leaves him in a position to fight in both races this weekend.
The Red Bull junior will line up from P5 for the reverse grid Sprint Race ahead of all his title rivals and right in the thick of the action. With Monza’s many overtaking opportunities, he’s refusing to be downhearted about the result.
“There was more time left on the table. I was already improving three-tenths when I hit the traffic, which looking back would have put me in the top five for sure. It sucks, but I think for my Championship and what I want to achieve this weekend, it’s not a bad position because it puts me up front for the shorter Sprint Race. Then I’ll be able to make my way up in the longer Feature Race. It’s not the end of the world qualifying in P8.
As his thoughts now move on to Saturday morning’s race, Crawford is all too aware that in order to keep the ultimate prize within his sights and to overturn Martins’ 36-point advantage, he has to be aiming for the top step in both races – a herculean task and one that no driver has been able to do this season.
Fortunately for him, Monza’s layout plays right into his hands and the PREMA driver is prepared to take full advantage of any chaos up ahead to carve his way through to the Sprint Race victory.
“I think for tomorrow, our goal should be to win. Also, we’re trying to lock up the Teams’ Championship as well. I guess from my side starting in the top five, the goal will be to win for sure. Then going into the Feature Race, it’s the same goal. Maybe it’s a bit out of range winning both races, but that’s what I want to do.
“I think there will be a lot of overtaking. Even today, I saw that even though there were lots of people with DRS that the slipstream was still quite powerful so there should be lots of overtaking. With the reverse grid, I think there will be a big battle at the front.”