Sauber Academy driver Petr Ptacek made a point-scoring start to his 2020 Formula Renault Eurocup campaign at Monza this weekend.
With global pandemic restrictions being eased, this weekend marked the 17-year-old’s first races of the year as Renault Sport’s top single-seater category got back on track in Italy after a delayed start.
Having switched to the championship-winning R-ace GP outfit, Petr was keen to establish some early momentum. However, qualifying for Friday’s first race proved frustrating as a red flag hampered his push-lap preparations.
That meant the Czech driver could only place his MindMaze-supported car P15 on the grid for Race 1.
But Petr was in determined mood once the track went green and he fought his way back up to P9 at the chequered flag – sealing a pair of valuable points into the bargain.
“There was a red flag in Qualifying 1 and I couldn’t get the tyres up to temperature in the correct window in time,” he explained. “I lost a lot of time and I couldn’t maximise the car. I was really struggling. So that’s why I qualified lower than I wanted.
“But then the pace was good in the race. I was able to make some moves and finish in the points, which was positive.”
A strong qualifying performance ahead of Saturday morning’s second race placed Petr P7 on the grid and he quickly found himself fighting for the podium places as the race unfolded.
After making a blistering start, Petr scythed through the field on the opening lap – the highlight being an opportunistic and creative move at the first and second Lesmo corners – and found himself in P4 as he started his second tour.
Unfortunately, Petr’s MindMaze-supported car suffered front wing damage a short time later and this affected his pace. Although he had an ill-handling car underneath him, he still managed to finish P7 on the track.
However, a post-race time penalty cruelly dropped him down to P14 after stewards found he could have avoided the contact that damaged his car.
“The start was really good in the second race and the first lap was pretty exciting, as well! But I had a little bit of contact with Alex Quinn and in the end it was my mistake,” Petr explained honestly.
“Things like this happen. I was a bit too eager to do a good job and to bring the result I wanted. I’ll learn from this outcome.”
In order to fit in a full calendar of 2020 events – in light of the delay caused by the pandemic – the next batch of Formula Renault Eurocup races come thick and fast for Petr.
The series will resume in two weeks’ time at Imola (24-25 July). An ex-Formula 1 circuit, it is revered by competitors as a track where the driver can make a real difference with a combination of skill and bravery.
“After we struggled a bit in pre-season testing, I wasn’t completely optimistic going to Monza,” Petr said. “But I’m looking forward to Imola. We have some hard work to do but I’m pretty sure we can do a good job on that track.”