A chat that helped us to get to know the Brazilian driver better
It has been a very eventful weekend for motorsport between cars and drivers’ announcements.
Multiformula never stopped giving you news but most important have interviewed a driver that is looking for redemption.
We are talking about Felipe Drugovich! F2 driver since 2020, despite a difficult year on the inaugural F3 championship, he has been promoted to F2 thanks to MP Motorsport. Switched to Uni Virtuosi in 2021, he is coming back to his previous team for this upcoming season.
We therefore asked Felipe for a feedback on the championship that has just finished, we did some questions on his passion for virtual racing and Italy and we discovered many other curiosities about his daily life and his future goals!
How would you rank your 2021 Formula 2 season on a scale from 1 to 10?
I would give myself a 4 because, even though an 8th place isn’t the end of the world, overall I did much worse than expected.
How’s it been to work with UNI-Virtuosi ? What did this experience leave you?
For me it’s not been easy at all to work with them, not for the people but mostly for the car, because it didn’t suit my driving style. I didn’t really like it and I also didn’t fit in with the way the team worked. Whenever something didn’t work out, I wasn’t able to change the situation and get back to the front of the grid. Then, in those two months before the last two rounds, I had time to properly think about what I was doing wrong and I understood what I could improve.
So I faced the last two race weekends with a different mindset and I got good results. It’s a shame that I haven’t been able to drive like that for the whole year, but I really gave it all and I tried my best for the situation I was in. Surely if I had done in all the races the things I did in the last two rounds it would’ve been different. Anyways I’ll try again this year.
In your opinion, what was missing?
From the beginning until at least the first half of the year the problem was basically the car. I wasn’t able to get used to to drive in that way because I wasn’t really used to it. I didn’t have the pace to stay in the top 3 in all the races and, even if I knew I didn’t have it, I kept going anyway for the first positions. I think this was my biggest mistake, because now I recognise that I was wrong and that I was trying too hard. In this kind of championship, especially with the 3-races format, exaggerating didn’t work at all, because you needed to be consistent.
Even if you didn’t give it all, consistency made the difference in the end, and I kind of did the exact opposite. I’ve learnt a lot from my mistakes because they made me understand that, in order to do well, I should’ve done things differently. If I had the pace to be 5th I had to finish 5th, and not try to be first and overdo risking to lose important opportunities.
Since you talked about the new format, what do you think about having 3 races each weekend ? How difficult was it to manage the long breaks?
It’s been truly a disaster. The weekend’s structure was already nonsense, because if you got the pole position you had to start 10th for the first race of the weekend. It’ll be this way next year as well, but at least both races will be related to the position gained in qualifying. Last year, for the second race, even if you didn’t go well in qualifying but you finished 10th in race 1, you would start first, so it wasn’t logical.
Then the breaks were too long! You got back into the car after all that time without driving and you almost didn’t even remember how to turn it on. If you stay months without getting into the car, you almost forget how to do also the basic actions. It wasn’t the right way to organise the format, I really hope this year with a few changings it’ll go better. We don’t have testing sessions during the season, we just have them right before the race in Bahrain and right after Jeddah, but I still think that it’s not enough.
Despite it’s been a tough season, is there anyway a moment that you’d like to relive, in order to change something that didn’t go as you wanted it to, or to live again a nice moment?
I would like to make 2021 start all over again. Hard times taught me a lot, so if I were able to start from scratch now I’m sure that it’d go much better. Unfortunately there’s not much to relive with a smile.
Now that you’ll be back in MP Motorsport for the 2022 season, what are you expecting to find within the team after your experience in 2020 and how will you change your approach to race weekends ?
First of all I’m sure that I’ll arrive in the team with much more experience than in 2020. I can say that, since the tests I’ve done in December right after Abu Dhabi went very well, the team improved also thanks to my help. They are much more prepared and now they have more experience as well. In addition, already in 2020 I had an MP team (mostly engineers) that was made of almost only Italians. For me that’s already a winning point, because I like how they work and, knowing now basically everyone, this is for me also a comeback home.
In 2020 on some tracks we had a strong pace whereas in others we struggled a lot, so that was our biggest problem because we weren’t able to change the set-up during the weekend. Now the team knows how to solve similar situations, so this gained experience could become a big advantage.
How are you preparing for the upcoming Formula 2 season during this off-season time?
The preparation for this season is the hardest I’ve ever done, but I’m sure it worth it. I’ve also been working with psychologists to keep my head as cool and focused as possible. The simulator training is also very helpful because it allows me to maintain muscle memory from last season.
How important do you think it is to have mental coaches for the drivers as well as a physical trainer?
It is very important, because having the right mindset to approach all the different sessions on the track is fundamental. Maybe not everyone needs it, but I’m convinced that help is never too little. It’s helped me a lot to have a mental coach, especially when everything goes wrong.
Has there ever been a moment during a race in which you’ve been really scared?
Usually you aren’t scared to get hurt because you don’t think about it, but you’re often scared of making an accident or to crash. I’m thinking for example of the second race in Monaco this year, where we tried to put on the slicks when the track was still wet. I did three laps in which I was really terrified to hit the wall. Also in a circuit like Jeddah, that is really fast and tight, you’re worried about making an accident. Anyway the fear of crashing is related more to the results than to getting injured, because you could miss an important chance to get points.
Between Formula 3 and Formula 2, who is the driver you feel like you battled the most with? Who’s the one you wanted to beat at all costs?
As it often happens in Formula 1, your first opponent is your teammate. So yes, I would say Guanyu Zhou, with whom I battled a few times, even if not a lot, because it’s hard to only have one and one driver only to fight with on track. But I’ve had some nice fights with Zhou, so I’d choose him.
What’s been, instead, the best moment of your career?
It would be my first victory in Formula 2 in 2020. It’s really been a beautiful moment because in Formula 3 I had worked with a team that had given me nothing, so when I got the opportunity to join Formula 2 immediately I was often told that I moved up too early. When I got to the first round and won, I proved them all wrong.
Already before the season started I was highly motivated, but this victory gave me much more confidence. Even if you know that you’re capable of doing it you’re never 100% sure, and these are the moments that give confidence to both the team and you.
In the last days it’s been published the news that the turkish driver Cem Bölükbasi will compete for the first time in Formula 2 with the team Charouz Racing System. He’s a boy who passed from F2 ESports to proper single-seater racing, what do you think about this move? In your opinion is it possible to move up from virtual racing to real racing?
It’s surely possible, especially because virtual races become a little bit more real every year. I don’t know Cem very well, I’ve seen him during the testing session in Abu Dhabi. I know that he competed in a few junior series, but from my point of view a move like his from virtual to races is possible nowadays, many drivers are also doing it. It’s hard, maybe, to find seats in junior Formulas right away because they are all very expensive, but many sim-drivers start careers in other real categories, so it’s an achievable goal.
The Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans
This weekend Felipe Drugovich’s team Realteam Hydrogen Redline’s #70 ORECA 07 LMP2 shared by Oliver Rowland, Jeffrey Rietveld and Michal Smidl won the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans. After a sensational pole, they claimed the victory after Max Verstappen’s team crash happened during the night stint. Here there are some question we asked him on the day before the qualifying.
Since you’ll take part in the Virtual 24h of Le Mans, would you like someday to race in the real one as well ?
Yes, a lot. It’s a beautiful competition, I would love to participate, but doing it while competing in Formula 2 is really hard. Then it’s not easy to find a seat in some team, and most of all it’s difficult to perform well in both. But someday, if I get the chance, I would like to try it out.
How do you get ready for a virtual race ? Is it a different approach from how you prepare for a real race ?
I train with the simulator at least 2 hours per day everyday. In my team there are both esports drivers and real drivers like Lorenzo Colombo and Max Verstappen. We have to prepare well because the “virtual” drivers are very fast!
Are you more worried about the virtual drivers or Max?
Max and I are in touch on Discord a lot, so he gives us some advice. He’s both fast in the real cars and in the virtual world. I think we are similar in terms of pace but he’s really good at it.
Have you ever thought about a career in ESport?
I like it a lot but I’ve never thought about a real career in virtual racing. As long as I have the chance I prefer racing on the track.
Oliver Rowland will be your teammate in the virtual LeMans, what do you think about Formula E? Is it a category that will have a future or will it align with Formula 1?
Yes, I think it will have a future but I don’t think it will be the top single-seater category, to even replacing Formula 1. There are a lot of brands that after spending few years into the category have decided moving to Hypercar so I don’t think it will be the best one. However, there will be a future for sure, there are a lot of investments in it and it is appreciated.
Moreover, he opened up a bit and showed us his affection for Italy and how he considers our country “his second home”
If you hadn’t been a driver what would you have wanted to do? Being a racing driver has always been your dream?
Being a driver has always been my dream, but I’ve always loved sport in general especially tennis so maybe I would have had a career in that.
Another possible career was working in my uncle’s vehicle spare parts company, but I’m pretty sure I would have worked anyway with engines.
It has emerged that you live in Italy and you can speak Italian very well, so how is your relationship with our country?
I like it a lot! I’ve been living in Italy since 2014 and I attended high school there so I had to learn how to speak Italian fluently especially for school. Italy is like a second home to me. I made many friends here and I’ve always managed to keep in touch with them so I have always someone to stay with during season breaks.
Motorsport allows you to travel all around the world, but is there a place you haven’t visited that you can’t wait to see?
Yes, there are so many. One place I would like to visit a lot, where there is also a Formula 1 track, is Australia. I really hope they can finally race there again but I now doubt it. Then I would also like to visit the typical tropical island, for example the Maldives, which are very beautiful.
During the race weekends when you are away from home are there little things in your routine that you can’t give up?
We are used to being away from home a lot, so what we do at home we also do abroad. When I spend a lot of time away from home it’s essential to find places to train, even if it’s just a nice road where I can go jogging.
Has the pandemic changed your approach and preparation for the races, but also your relationship with your family?
At the beginning the pandemic changed a lot of my routine. We were forced to train indoors or at home. Even if it didn’t affect my preparation in general, it was less fun to do. Concerning the relationship with my family, I can say that it changed a lot because 2/3 times a year I usually go back to Brazil, while in 2020 I only went once. I spent the whole year in Europe but luckily my mum was always with me. Everyone went through a lot and made a big sacrifice because we all found ourselves in the same situation in the end.
How does your family support you? Are they always there for you despite the distance?
They give me all the support they can, they’re great. One of my cousins helps me with media and marketing stuff and another one helps me with contacts with the teams and contracts. My mum follows me at every round of the season and when he can my uncle comes to watch the races too. It is very nice to see that all the members of my family enjoy motorsport, [we are a team].
Now we want to ask you: Where do you see yourself in five years? What do you think will be in your future?
I hope to be in Formula 1, that’s my dream and I don’t think it’s impossible, in fact I see it as a real possibility. It depends a lot on this season’s results, but also on the financial resources. If I don’t make the step, the important thing is to stay in the paddock, for example as a test driver, so I hope to be at least in the paddock in five years’ time.
Which is the team that you think would probably welcome you at the moment?
Any team! It’s really difficult to impress a team and get one of the 20 F1 seats so it’s important that as soon as an opportunity comes along you take it immediately. There is no one team I would prefer and I can not choose where to go, but obviously the best teams at the moment are Red Bull and Mercedes, or even Ferrari.
As we come to the end, we would like to thank Felipe Drugovich and his management very much on behalf of Multiformula. We wish him the best of luck for 2022!