Petr Ptacek was unable to translate his impressive raw pace into Formula Renault Eurocup points at Circuit Paul Ricard in France this weekend, as torrid luck denied the 16-year-old on two occasions.
Just one week after racing in front of a Formula 1 crowd on the streets of Monaco, the Parmigiani Watches-supported driver continued his Formula Renault learning at the fast and technical venue for the French Grand Prix.
The Czech driver, a podium finisher at Silverstone last month, was disappointed to be P16 in Qualifying One, after suffering a handling issue that made his BhaiTech Racing car too lively at the rear.
His hopes of making progress through the field in Saturday’s Race One were quickly dashed as his Rich Energy-liveried car was spectacularly tipped upside down after contact as the drivers jostled for position at Turn One.
“Race One was too short: I was flipped over on the first lap and my car was too badly damaged to continue,” said Petr, who was thankfully uninjured. “I saw the world from a different perspective – upside down. It was my first flip in a single-seater car and I was pleased to discover that the ‘halo’ cockpit protection works exactly as it should!”
A stellar job by Petr’s engineers ensured the youngster’s car was repaired and ready for Qualifying Two on Sunday morning – and he rewarded his team by qualifying an impressive P6 for the afternoon’s second race.
“Quali Two was decent; we changed a couple of things and I was much happier with the car,” he said. “We were capable of finishing inside the points during the race, that’s for sure.”
Unfortunately, Petr was hit with a second bout of unexpected bad luck on the grid. “Just as the start lights were about to go out, I tried to put the six-speed transmission into first gear but instead it engaged reverse,” he explained.“Then I couldn’t get it back into neutral to get first gear again. By the time I got moving, I was in last position.
“I recovered a few places but then my team-mate ran wide and damaged my car’s front wing as he re-joined the circuit. It didn’t matter too much because I would have finished outside of the points after my issue on the grid.”
As a racer that’s keen to learn and continually push his performance, Petr used his remaining track time wisely. “With points beyond us, I came into the pits so we could try some something different with the front wing settings,” he said. “We were able to gather some extra data that might prove useful in future races.”
Petr ended the race in P20, although his pace was again strong enough to justify a much higher finish, as he set the eighth-fastest lap of the race.
“All in all, it was a tough weekend,” Petr reflected. “Our pace wasn’t where we wanted it to be, but myself and the team will go away from this race and analyse everything. There’s 12 more races to show what we can do. I know there’s good things to come.”
Petr will return to racing action at the fifth round of the Formula Renault Eurocup which will be held at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium on 25-27 July.