The world saw him escaping unharmed while his car burst into flames after a massive collision in Sochi, earning a podium in home soil at Monza, and storming to victory in Hungary.Sports Pundit spoke with the Italian driver, who outlined his F2 season, the plans for the future, and F1.
In recent years, we are seeing a new generation of talented racing drivers emerging from different racing series, a wave of change promoted by kids who started racing in karting when they were as young as four years old.
Now, these kids are teens or in their early twenties, already battling for a full-time seat, most aiming to become a Formula One driver.
But a career in motorsports requires money, sponsors, apart from talent.
Many of these young talents won’t be able to become professional racing drivers, some will overcome the odds and triumph, a few will be crowned champions.
Wherever the path leads them, one thing is for certain, the future of motorsport is in good hands, and the Italian is part of a new generation battling for a dream.
Luca Ghiotto is currently the only Italian to take part in the grid of the 2020 season of the extremely competitive Formula 2 series, which finds Mick Schumacher leading the Driver’s Championship.
Ghiotto says he is passionate about motorsport since he was a kid, and he describes being a racing driver as his “dream job.”
The 25-year-old is driving for Hitech Grand Prix, a team that is making its debut season in Formula 2 with Ghiotto and his teammate Nikita Mazepin behind the wheel.
The British squad sits third in the Constructor’s Championship.
The partnership with Hitech brought him back for the fifth season of Formula 2 [including one when it was called GP2].
Early in 2020, he was also linked to a move to sports cars racing.
“Then R-Motorsport [Aston Martin squad at the GT World Challenge Europe] decided to stop its program for 2020, and that is the reason why I have been doing only Formula 2, otherwise, I would have done both championships.”
SP: How did it feel to achieve a 1-2 finish at Mugello with Hitech GP?
LG: Of course, it was mega to finish 1-2 in Mugello, which was a crazy race.We finished 1-2 doing opposite strategies, me and Nikita [Mazepin]; until the checkered flag, it was one of these races you don’t know what to expect.
I was lucky to keep P2 because I was on a strategy, starting on soft tyres, and finishing with the hard tyres, it was not easy to defend from who was coming on the new soft tyres after the safety car packed up all the cars, but luckily, we made it.
It was really close to [Louis] Deltraz on the line but just enough to keep the place and to finish P2.
SP: What have been your highs and lows so far this season?
LG: I would say before Monza, everything has been a low, apart from the win in Hungary, the weekend in Hungary was good overall, but apart from that, it was really a bad season. I was struggling quite a lot.
After Monza, we changed many parts of the cars to try to fix some issues because I didn’t feel good in the car, things turned around completely; I had a great feeling with the car, it felt great all the time.
I would say everything has been a high since Monza, constantly fighting for podiums at the front, which is good, of course.
It is unlucky we didn’t have that pace before, but still, it was a great effort from the team to find the issue, and solve it, and to be fighting for good positions again.
In 2017, he tested a Formula One car with Williams at the rookie test in Hungary, a day he describes with enthusiasm as “great!”
SP: Is Formula One still in the picture for you?
LG: Formula 1 will always be in the picture, of course, it is tough, but we are working hard to achieve that goal.
There are other opportunities, but within these opportunities, Formula 1 is always there and will always be there, and we will always try to get there.
“And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver, because we are competing.”
What do you make of that statement?
LG: For sure, on certain occasions, that is true, but at other times I think you need to be smart as well, that will always depend on the situation, if you have to risk or if you have to manage the race.
It is a very tough question to answer right now, because every single situation in racing is different, and you always need to think about it at that moment.
THE ACCIDENT AT SOCHI IN DETAIL
The huge crash between Ghiotto and Campos Racing’s Jack Aitken took place as they were battling for the fourth position.
After, what first seemed a light contact at Turn 3, they crashed, hitting the Tecpro barriers at high-speed.
Ghiotto’s Hitech car caught fire and was completely destroyed, fortunately, the drivers walked away from the scene by their own means.
Sports Pundit asked the driver about the accident that frightened the paddock in Russia, and also contacted Pirelli to learn about the conclusions reached by the tyre supplier, from their analysis of the incident.
SP: After looking at the images on tv, what do you think happened?
LG: From the car, I just felt a massive heat; I was straight against the wall, all happened really quickly.
I saw the images after the race, from the video, on the outside, you couldn’t understand much about the crash.
I understood it a bit better once I talked to Jack [Aitken], and he told me he had a puncture, or either something broke in the car.
He had to correct the oversteer in the middle of the corner [Turn 3], and that is why he turned into me, that explains everything that happened.
Some Formula One drivers speaking to the media that Sunday at Sochi, highlighted the great work the Tecpro barriers have done in terms of safety.
The Italian explains: “The Tecpro barriers did an amazing job of absorbing the impact; the only thing to work on in the future is to avoid them, let’s say, moving up from the ground, because both, me and Jack, finished underneath the barriers, which is not good. In the future, that is the only thing to work on and try to avoid.”
SP: How would you compare the new 18-inch tyres with its predecessors 13-inch?
LG: Basically, it changes everything, the way of driving is the opposite of what it used to be, it just feels like a brand new car; not only the wheels and rims changes, it just feels like a completely different car.
The new 18-inch tyres introduced this season in Formula 2 by Pirelli is another aspect of the accident that arose safety concerns.
Both right tyres of Jack Aitken’s car came off from the wheel rims with the heavy impact.
FIA race director Michael Masi was asked by the media about the safety of the new tyre size and stated: “we’ll come together with Pirelli and will do so accordingly after this weekend as we do with any large incident.”
On the specific subject, Pirelli stated to Sports Pundit: “After our analysis, there is no evidence at all of tyre fault related to the tyres themselves detached from the rim in Russia.
All that happened looks strictly motivated by the contacts between cars and so the wheels.
“Also, the technical scenario related to the new 18-inch F2 tyres doesn’t show any issue at high speed. So far, the performance of these tyres looks consistent and reliable under all points of view.
“Of course, the data collecting goes on; Pirelli knows that the job to be done in direction F1 is huge, but so far, we don’t see or foresee any major issue.”
The 18-inch wheels will be introduced to Formula 1 in 2022.
After assessing the damages caused by the crash, Masi decided to red-flagged the race.
The grid of the FIA Formula 2 Championship is currently on a break from racing before returning to action with a double-header at Sakhir, Bahrain, by the end of November and early December.
SP: With two rounds to go, what are your plans after the 2020 Formula 2 season comes to an end at Bahrain?
LG: Nothing has been signed, it is still early October, we have a few plans on which we are working and that we will have a decision in the next few months, but nothing has been finalized yet, is too early, but I am excited to see what is next.
There are a few championships we are looking for to 2021.One that is already known I have been looking for is GT, it is something I was involved in early 2020 as well, and others I cannot tell.
Let’s see what happens in the next months.
In 2019, Ghiotto brought his season to an end with a victory at Abu Dhabi, finishing third in the Driver’s Championship with the team UNI-Virtuosi.
Image courtesy of Luca Ghiotto Media team.