Q & A with Jean-Karl Vernay

Jean-Karl Vernay had a quiet year in the Formula 3 Euro Series, but in Macau he has been among the frontrunners from the outset - and won the qualification race today

Q & A with Jean-Karl Vernay

AUTOSPORT heard from the Frenchman after his success.

Q. Were you expecting this kind of performance when you came here to Macau this weekend - or are you surprised by how it has all turned out?

Jean-Karl Vernay: Kris Nissen [the Volkswagen motorsport chief] told me at Hockenheim that if I wanted to go to Macau I would have to win the race there. I won that race - and now he said, if I don't want to come back next year, I have to win on Sunday! So, I have to win tomorrow.

For sure, I was not expecting to do a new lap record and a qualifying like that. You need a bit of experience to be fast on this track, but the car was just fantastic. It has a good engine and a good car for the city. I like this track. I push a lot but I also don't take a lot of risks.

Q. When did you realise that things were going to go so well for you?

JKV: I really like the city tracks - like Pau and Monaco for example. And I knew that this track would be for me. My Signature team has had good results here, with Edoardo [Mortara] last year and Nicolas Lapierre in the past. We have a good car, a good engine - in fact a perfect engine for the straights. I was catching Marcus [Ericsson], not easily, but I was catching him.

I had a good feeling with the car straight away too. I can attack with it - and take no risks. A lot of drivers in qualifying were in the wall because they were at 200 per cent, and me I was just improving my driving lap after lap to take not so many risks. And finally I won.

But I don't care if it is the main race or the qualifying race. I was fast today and for sure the aim is to win tomorrow, but we will see what happens. I just take pleasure from it, and we will see.

Q. How much of a help has Signature's experience been, plus the input from an experienced Macau driver like Mortara as your team-mate?

JKV: It was helping a lot, because at the beginning we could compare the data and I could see where I had to improve my driving. That is always good. Edoardo is the leader of the team because it is his third time here, and he has to win. For the moment I am in front of him, but I don't care about that. What we want is for Signature to win. For sure, I want to win tomorrow but we will see.

Q. You lost the lead after the start, but then regained the position after the first safety car restart. How did the race go from your perspective?

JKV: My start was very good. We were fighting with Marcus at the front but I didn't want to take any risks. I wanted to stay on the track, because the race is tomorrow - this is just a qualification event.

But after the restart, I had a very good run. The slipstream was good and the engine was very good, and it was easy for me to overtake Marcus and be in front of him before the Lisboa corner.

After that, I just pushed in the city section and the car was perfect. I made a good gap - although I don't know how many seconds I had. It was enough to stay in front.

But when the safety car came out again I was crazy in the car, because I thought there was going to be another racing lap before the end. With the slipstreaming, Marcus would be able to overtake me - but we finished under the safety car and it was better for me.

Q. The gap to Ericsson after the first restart was quite big, but you closed in very fast. Were you surprised by that?

JKV: No. For sure, he had a gap - but if you have a good slipstream it is okay. That it what I did, because I overtook him before the corner.

Q. And you built up a big gap quite quickly...

JKV: No. I was just thinking about what my engineer told me - about where I had to improve my driving. I said okay, I have to brake 10 metres later here, turn a bit earlier here - things like that. But I was safe - no crash. And even if I finished P2, P3, or P4 it was okay, so I was just driving easy and happy to finish the race.

Q. And you said you were a bit frustrated when the second safety car came out?

JKV: Completely, because my gap was enough to finish in front easily, and when I saw that I was not confident for the restart. You can of course stay in front, but when you have a gap like that with two laps to go, you are always not so confident. But finally I won - perfect.

Q. How confident do you feel for the big race tomorrow then?

JKV: The car is perfect. I can improve my driving a bit though and we will see at the start. The main thing at the start is to have no crash and to stay in front. I am sure that if I stay in front I can win tomorrow - I proved that today and yesterday in qualifying. But if there are a lot of safety cars and restarts, then you have to manage that.

Q. And of course starting on pole position is not always so good here because of the slipstream factor down into the first corner?

JKV: Yes. We have to think about a different strategy, but I know a lot of drivers have not won the main race after winning the qualification race. But, Oliver Jarvis did it three years ago - so why not me?

Vernay wins Macau qualification race

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