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Pourchaire “worried” for Super Formula prospects after nightmare debut

Theo Pourchaire admits that a dismal first weekend of the Super Formula season at Suzuka has left him “worried” about his prospects for the rest of the year in the Japanese series.

Theo Pourchaire, ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Reigning Formula 2 champion Pourchaire finished way down in 18th in his Toyota-powered Team Impul machine in Sunday’s opener, having started 16th on the grid.

The Frenchman lost ground on the opening lap with a poor start, and any chance of finishing in the points was lost when he ran off track at Turn 7 (formerly Dunlop Curve) on lap 16 of 31, which also left him with a broken front wing.

Pourchaire explained that the mistake came as a result of pushing too hard to make up lost ground, and that he felt he had “nothing to lose” in his position.

But he admits that he and Impul’s general lack of performance at Suzuka means he could be in for a difficult season if things don’t improve rapidly.

“There is no big frustration because I gave my best, I tried,” said Pourchaire post-race. “And when you try, sometimes you can make mistakes. 

“I don’t know if we were even able to fight for points. We really need to work to find something because right now we are fighting for crazy positions.

“I’m a little bit worried to be honest. I think I am driving pretty ok, I adapted [to the car] quickly. I will work with the team to understand the car, the tyres, to improve the performance, because we are really far off the pace. 

“If I think about Round 2 in Autopolis, I’m not sure the goal is to fight for the top five, or the top three. I think the goal is to fight for the top 10 at this stage, which is not what I want.”

Pourchaire had shown top-six pace in both of the off-season tests at Suzuka, and concluded the opening practice session of the weekend on Saturday morning fifth fastest, giving him confidence he could qualify in a similar position.

But he was knocked out in his Q1 group with the eighth fastest time, with team-mate Yuji Kunimoto likewise struggling and qualifying one place behind in 17th.

“We had four testing days, two in December and two in February, and we didn’t improve anything,” Pourchaire continued. “I am driving at the limit. 

“Yes, this mistake [in the race] happened, but I don’t think I did anything stupid. I tried to do the best job possible with what I have, which is my job at the end of the day, even when you don’t have the best car.”

Theo Pourchaire, ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL

Theo Pourchaire, ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Pourchaire added that seeing Ollie Bearman make his F1 debut for Ferrari in Saturday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix makes him think a similar chance in his role as Sauber reserve might be his best hope of making an impression this year.

“If I want to get to F1, I have to perform here in Super Formula,” he said. “But I am also a reserve driver, and we saw this weekend that Ollie got an opportunity. 

“I don’t wish anything bad to happen to [the Sauber] drivers, but it could happen in the next race and you have to be ready at any moment.

“To have an opportunity like that would be a dream, because the performance is not there in Super Formula.”

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