Zak O’Sullivan says he is more than happy to keep scrapping for points however he and his Carlin team can for the remainder of the 2022 season. He benefitted from an inspired decision to come in during the Feature Race in Budapest and fit slick tyres on while others ahead persisted with the wet Pirelli tyres on a rapidly drying track.
The result was a magnificent drive through the field as he dispatched rivals left, right and centre in the remaining laps to record a P4 finish and some valuable points having started 22nd on the grid.
Speaking afterwards, the Briton was fully aware that circumstance had gifted him and his Carlin team the chance to make progress but he made sure he was the stand-out driver on the grid when it came to putting the plan into action on track.
“I saw the track was driving quite a bit and actually saw (Juan Manuel) Correa behind me come into the pits and decide to take the risk. Obviously, I knew we were outside the points positions and probably weren't going to score any. I thought it was worth the risk.
“As soon as I got back out on track, I realised pretty much right away it was the right call and could start making some progress and eventually ended up in P4. When I came out of the pits, I think pretty much in the first sector of pushing and into sector two, I knew it was the right call.
“Sector one was quite tricky with tyre temperatures low, but really within the first the first few laps, I was already quicker than my wet times and all the other wet runners. Once the tyres were up to temperature, I thought we’d make some progress, maybe the top 10. My engineer was keeping me updated on positions and lap times and I think once I knew I had like a 10-second delta to the wet runners, I thought P5 was possible. We were passing three or four cars per lap. I was never fully sure where we're going to finish.”
The Carlin driver must have had a smile on his face when his race engineer informed him of the huge pace differential between himself and those ahead, and O’Sullivan capitalised, rising from his P17 position up to fourth by the chequered flag. Had the race been one lap longer and such was his pace, he may well have gone on to overhaul eventual winner Alexander Smolyar.
It was a brilliant recovery drive, and his fourth points finish of the campaign, one in which Carlin has struggled to match the pace of its rivals. Currently sat just two points outside of the top 10 in the Drivers’ Championship in what is his rookie campaign in Formula 3, O’Sullivan hopes that the triple-header that will close the season can treat him and the team with another batch of opportunities to score well.
“The start of the race wasn't too great to be honest, I lost a few positions and then gained a few after a few cars went off at Turn 2. From then on until the time that I pitted, the pace wasn't really there. It was quite similar to the Sprint Race, we struggled for pace, and I could just hold station in P17 trying to fight with (Kaylen) Frederick in front.
“I think for the remainder of the season this result doesn't really change too much. In general, as a team we’ve struggled for pace. Obviously, I made the right call with the team in the Feature Race which really helped us score some good points, but we've got to wait and see. We've been a bit up and down all year, some races strong, others not. We've got Spa, Zandvoort and Monza as the last three rounds and hopefully we can pick up a few more points.”