American rookie Crawford posts first F2 victory at Spielberg

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American rookie Crawford posts first F2 victory at Spielberg

RBR_GP_DL-3822.jpg // Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202307010280 // Usage for editorial use only //

Strong Red Bull Ring weekend includes best Feature Race finish 

SPIELBERG, Austria (2 July 2023) – Jak Crawford came home a winner for the first time in FIA Formula 2 competition, with the 18-year-old rookie from Texas capturing Saturday’s Sprint Race at the home race for sponsor Red Bull. He then backed it up with a big drive in the feature race to score his season-best feature race result.

The Red Bull Racing Junior started from the pole and dominated the 27-lap Saturday Sprint for Hitech Pulse-Eight Racing. On Sunday, an alternate tire strategy led the Red Bull Junior rookie driver to an eighth-place finish in the Feature, gaining seven positions over the final eight laps.

The seventh event of the campaign opened the busiest stretch of the season for the Formula One hopeful, with F2 set to stage four two-race weekends during the month of July as Crawford opened the month with a big weekend.

“It was my best F2 weekend so far, a pretty crazy weekend,” Crawford said. “It was pretty cool to hear the National Anthem at the podium, especially in Formula 2. It was a great race, and I’m so happy with the results. The Red Bull people are happy – I did a lot of stuff with them after the race and it was quite fun.”

After what seemed like a slow start to the weekend as Crawford 19th of 22 drivers in the lone practice, the young American still came away happy from the session.

“I had lap times deleted [due to exceeding track limits], so my lap time wasn’t really representative,” he explained. “I was in the top five for most of practice, so I was actually pretty happy with the practice.”

Qualifying was more difficult, but the results were better. Crawford timed in 10th fastest, good enough to put him on the pole position for the Sprint Race’s inverted grid for the second time this season. It was his sixth-consecutive top-10 qualifying result.

“Qualifying was tough, and it was really close as well,” Crawford said. “I think we missed the setup a tiny bit, and we ended up in 10th. I think we could have had more, but it was super tight.”

Rain an hour before the event soaked the circuit. With a light drizzle nearing the start, competitors were faced with the choice of going with rain tires or gambling with slicks to tackle the damp 10-turn circuit.

Crawford started on slicks. While he got off to a great jump at lights-out, he was sixth and struggling by the end of the opening lap. The conditions led to two early safety car interventions. He managed to get up to second between the cautions, and took the lead when the driver in front opted to pit for slick tires. When racing resumed, Crawford again got a great start and built up a gap of more than one second – preventing his rivals from gaining a DRS advantage. From that point, he managed the gap and led the final 22 laps for his maiden F2 victory.

“It was a bit of an unknown going into the Sprint Race,” he said. “We had to do what was best for the future, and in the end, it all worked out like we planned. It was a smooth race. The track was very wet at the start, it was hard to get temperature [into the tires]. Considering the conditions, I had a really good start and managed to keep the lead for two corners. Despite all that, everyone knew that in the end, slicks would be better. Once I got the lead, I was just taking it easy, trying not to get any track limits penalties, and making sure the gap was not coming down.”

Sunday, Crawford started 10th in the 40-lap Feature Race but got bumped and fell back on the opening lap. Starting on harder-compound tires, he was up to sixth by lap 11 as drivers began switching to the alternate tire.

“I had an incident at the start of the race,” he explained. “I was fighting for seventh place going into turn one and I fell all the way back to 17th. I was using the tires up trying to get back up. But near the end, there was a safety car that allowed me to put on my good tires, and I was able to come back through the pack and score some points.”

Halfway through his rookie F2 campaign, Crawford moved up to 13th in the standings with 38 points. He now has four podiums – all in Sprint Races – and seven points-paying finishes.

“Obviously, we still have a bit of work to do,” he said. “I feel we have more to come in the Feature Races. We need to work on qualifying time and making sure we score big in the Feature Race, but we’ve done a lot of work over the break and we made a big improvement.”

Next up is the British Silverstone circuit. After a weekend off, F2 has back-to-back weekends, in Budapest July 22-23 and Spa July 29-30.

“Silverstone is a bit of a home race for Hitech and I,” Crawford said. “I’m really looking forward to that track. It has a lot of high-speed corners; it’s really tough on tires, and I’m looking forward to being there for the first time in a Formula 2 car.”

Images via Red Bull Content Pool