Carlin’s Louis-Denis Deletraz is in good place to make a charge for title in the new F2 season. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Abu Dhabi-backed driver Louis Deletraz is gearing up for another gruelling Formula 2 series, starting this weekend in Bahrain, but has plans for bigger prizes in the future.

The Swiss son of former F1 competitor Jean-Denis Deletraz wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and is now one step closer to his dream having tested for the Haas F1 team over the winter in the UAE capital.

But first it is back to the season at hand in F2 and the ADSS-backed 21-year-old Carlin driver insists he is in a good place to make a charge for the title, having finished 10th last season.

Pre-season testing in Barcelona and Jerez is now complete and all systems are go for he curtain-raiser in Bahrain this weekend.

“The F2 Winter Testings were great, both in Jerez and in Barcelona,” he told Gulf News. “I am very pleased with the results and we completed a large testing programme. The car felt great and quick, there is a really good ambience inside the team and the motivation is really high. I can’t wait to be in Bahrain for the first round and race. We’ve been working hard and hopefully it will pay off.”

One rival on the F2 track will be a familiar name to racing fans around the world, as Prema’s Mick Schumacher is beginning to make his own name having been brought up as the son of seven-time F1 champion Michael. Schumacher Jnr is a Ferrari Academy driver and is taking the step up to F2, having progressed through the ranks from karting as a kid and won the F3 title last year.

“I have known Mick for many years and we’re great friends,” said Deletraz. “He is new to Formula 2 but it will be great to race against him this year, I look forward to some ontrack battles with him. But in the end we are 20 drivers on the grid and my objective is to be the quickest.”

Deletraz got a taste of things to come when he tested for Haas in Abu Dhabi at the end of last season, and he can’t wait to get behind the wheel of one of the most powerful racing cars in the world once again.

“My first F1 test was amazing, a day I will never forget,” he said. “Especially as it was in Abu Dhabi — the home of [private financial services firm] ADSS, my long-time sponsor — so we couldn’t dream of a better start to my Formula 1 career. The Haas F1 Team was pleased with my performance and I will be working with the team to help develop the car through 2019. I have to say the cars are incredibly quick and have so much grip.

“ADSS is my longest standing partner, we have had many success, many victories and podiums together. I wouldn’t be here today without them. It’s amazing to have ADSS on-board and to create a success story.”

The top three F2 drivers in 2018 — George Russell, Lando Norris and Alex Albon all graduated to F1 for the current campaign and Deletraz feels he is not far behind.

“Formula 2 is the last step before F1 so yes I think I can land a seat in Formula 1,” he said. “I now have an F1 Super License, there are only three young drivers in the world to have this and it is mandatory if you want to step up. I have to focus on doing a great season in F2 and after that we will start looking at F1. But F1 is the goal at 10 per cent.”
The youngster is also keeping his options open, despite his commitments to Haas.

“I’m very happy with Haas F1 Team, everything is going well,” he said. “As I said I will be part of the team working on the development of the car in the simulator in 2019 alongside my Formula 2 commitments. But, I would never close any doors, if someone else offers me an F1 seat I will strongly consider it. But I’m not thinking so much about this, I try to focus at the maximum on my F2 season and the time will tell.”

Looking at the front of the pack in F1, Deletraz is not sure who will win the title this year, but he knows it is going to be tight. Mercedes Valtteri Bottas won the opening race in Australia from teammate and reigning champion Lewis Hamilton. When asked if Hamilton will prevail over Bottas, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Deletraz said: “That’s a hard question. It’s always difficult to judge after only one race. I think both Mercedes and Ferrari will be strong, the season will be long and the fight will be intense.”

Factfile: Louis Deletraz

Nationality: Switzerland Swiss
Born: 22 April 1997, Geneva, Switzerland

FIA Formula 2 career
■ Debut season: 2017
■ Current team: Carlin
■ Car: No. 1
■ Starts: 46
■ Wins: 0
■ Podiums: 2
■ Finished 10th in 2018 season