Jake Hughes VAR

Jake Hughes ready for step up: ‘I feel I’m the best I have ever been’

Jake Hughes might be the oldest driver on the Formula 2 grid this season at 27-years-old, but the Brit has had an impressive start to the year with the Van Amersfoort Racing (VAR) team. The combination of Hughes as a knowledgeable driver and the Dutch VAR team as an experienced feeder series outfit has proven strong so far. 

By Tyler Foster

F1 Feeder Series had the opportunity to speak to Jake Hughes in a two-part interview. In this first part, we discuss how his Formula 2 season has started and what he believes he can accomplish with Van Amersfoort.

VAR the rookies

Despite having a podium taken away due to a technical infringement in Round 2 in Jeddah, Hughes has been strong throughout the opening rounds of the championship, showing consistent pace. While Hughes is certainly benefitting from his age and experience in motor-racing, VAR as a team are new to Formula 2 with this being their first year at this level.

The VAR car has proven impressively quick at the hands of Hughes, with solid performances in qualifying in both Bahrain and Jeddah. Speaking to Hughes, we asked him whether he was at all surprised by the overall pace of the car.

“I think I’d probably be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little bit surprised. Just from the basic level that they are a new team to Formula 2. So, from that point of view, yeah, I am surprised in a positive way. On the other hand, from what I see in the background in terms of work ethic and mindset that we have as a team and just the general path that we have gone down with the car, the championship, the tyres. In that way, I’m kind of not surprised.”

Jeddah disqualification

In Round 2 at Jeddah, Hughes and VAR experienced what they thought was their maiden podium in Formula 2 after securing a third place in the Sprint Race. However, they were unfortunately disqualified for a technical infringement and lost their achievement. With F2 being the pinnacle of the feeder series world, we asked Hughes whether this was the biggest disappointment he had ever experienced in motorsport.

Overall, we were hampering ourselves, so the fact that we got onto the podium and were leading a race, was a really proud moment

Jake Hughes

“I wouldn’t say so actually. Just by my reaction, don’t get me wrong I was very disappointed but I was kind of more proud than anything. What we got disqualified for was disqualification-worthy. We were too long on the plank. It’s not something that we did intentionally, actually it was slowing us down. Overall, we were hampering ourselves, so the fact that we got onto the podium and were leading a race, was a really proud moment.”

Experience or skill?

It is clear that while he may not have capitalised on the performance of his car to the maximum, Hughes is more than capable at this level. He seems extremely confident in his new team but still understands the situation at this point in his career. We spoke to him about confidence and where his unique expertise could lead him in the future.

“At this point in my career, I am older than everyone at this level but I’ve sort of followed a similar length of time for what most people do. I’m at the point now where I’m ready to take a step into professional racing; like Formula 1, Formula E, WEC, IndyCar. I’ve never felt more ready to take that step, but at the same time I do still need to prove myself. I’ve won races in every single car I’ve ever driven and Formula 2 is the last box to tick. I’ve always wanted to scratch that itch. I am feeling very good, the fact that the team trust me in this role is only a positive that I can take on board. I do feel that I’m the best I have ever been.”

I’m at the point now where I’m ready to take a step into professional racing; like Formula 1, Formula E, WEC, IndyCar. I’ve never felt more ready to take that step

Jake Hughes

“I’ve been in Formula 3 many years now and a little bit in Formula 2. I’m still learning Formula 2. I think people are quite quick to put the experienced label on me, which I am, but at the same time I’ve only done two Formula 2 races before this year. Nevertheless, I do know the championships, I do know the tendencies of the tyre.”

Jake Hughes and Gary Paffett | Credit: Mercedes

Hughes wants to win

With their podium result from Jeddah being removed following disqualification, they are still looking for a big result to push Hughes further up in the standings. He currently sits thirteenth in the Drivers’ Championship, with a best result of fourth in the Jeddah Feature Race.

When asked if finishing this season without a victory would be a disappointment, Hughes rapidly replied, “Absolutely!”.

“To be honest, winning one race would be the minimum. I don’t see why, considering how the car feels and the team is performing, we can’t try and finish in the top five in the Drivers’ Championship. That will be very difficult; there are a lot of strong teams and strong drivers. I do feel like we have the ability to do it, we just have to stay focused and keep our heads down. I think if we do that, we’ll have a good chance of that.”

VAR vs HWA

When comparing Hughes’ current team, Van Amersfoort Racing, to that of his former employers in F2 and F3, HWA Racelab, he said that there were some differences. This includes the different mindset that open-wheel single-seater championships offer in contrast to that of DTM where HWA have dominated for decades. 

On the other hand, VAR have been in the junior formula scene since 1975. After Hughes’ role with HWA as the ‘experienced’ driver, he has fitted perfectly as the older veteran within the VAR team and sees himself as a leader within the Dutch outfit.

Focus for the rest of the season

Finally, regarding the rest of the season, it is clear that Van Amersfoort are aiming to remain competitive and give Hughes a car worthy of fighting for points in every round. We asked Hughes what the main focus was for both himself and the team. 

“I think it’s tyres. We have very strong race pace. We just need to focus on putting sessions together more often than not and not trying to put the perfect lap or setup together but targeting to the top five and trying to qualify there and build the championship that way.”

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