Jack Aitken spoke to Crash.net midway through his rookie Formula 2 campaign and how he copes with living up to pressure and expectation as a Renault junior driver.

Half way through the season, how’s your verdict been on the season so far? Bit of mixed feelings?

Jack Aitken: Yes, mixed. Bit up and down. We’re still trying to get the knack of the tyres because I think like a lot of people it seems to change a lot track to track and I haven’t quite found the right mix yet. But I’m learning a lot every race, we’ve had some good results and qualifying has been a real strong point for us. This weekend [Hungary] was by the far the best one we’ve had so far, was so close to getting the first pole, so outright pace I’m really happy with as a rookie but just get a hang on the tyres is going to be the next real challenge.

How frustrated by the car issues you’ve encountered this year?

JA: They’ve impacted everybody’s season to be fair. For us it came at some bad moments, probably the worst was Monaco when we were starting on the front row but everyone has struggled so I can’t really say that I’ve been worse affected than most.

Do you feel your championship position is maybe an unfair reflection of your performances?

JA: Yes, we definitely have had our fair share of bad luck but also I think the last few run of races we didn’t score any points when really we should have scored at least some but it was either problems with the car or bad luck and a few mistakes from the team and myself. Without that we should be fighting for the top five but we’ve still got plenty of time.

Shock Moments of F1 2018… So far

How are the car issue fixes coming along? Are the signs of improvements you’ve noticed?

JA: F2 are working on it, they have been since the start of the season, they knew what the problems are and they are bringing some fixes. I think it’s unlikely that we will get to a stage where the car is 100 percent reliable, that’s always difficult to achieve. All we can hope for is we don’t want it to affect the championship more than it already has.

How frustrating is it that it could ultimately end up damaging a driver’s reputation?

JA: It’s a difficult one because everyone knows that when you bring a new car there will be issues. But then again there’s been more than the fair share this year and the car has been quite difficult. I would hope that people looking from the outside recognise that and when they see that someone DNFs a race, there’s a reason and likewise that affects the championship. I think everyone who knows, they are aware of that. It doesn’t look good on TV to the average consumer but that can’t really be helped at this stage.

How disappointed are you not to be up there fighting with your teammate George Russell?

JA: Quite disappointed. Like I say, I’ve not quite got the knack of the tyres yet and I think my style has always been a bit more aggressive. It was a bit of a learning curve in my first year in GP3 as well, so maybe it’s not a surprise that it’s taking me a bit longer to get to grips with it but I’m happy that I’m qualifying well and the pace is good. That’s a strong point and I just need to work on everything else but I’ll get there eventually. Just trying to do it as quickly as possible.

Do you see your performance across the Hungary weekend as a turning point in your season?

JA: I hope so. I think to be honest qualifying was never really the big, big issue. It’s been improving but like I say this was a particularly good weekend. I’ve always felt like the potential was there in qualifying, it’s just that this weekend I actually got it together and did what I felt I should. We’ve got a bit of a break now so I can get deep into the data and take the opportunity to see what we can learn because we probably need to do something different for the rest of the season in the races.

What is your aim now for the rest of the season? Would you say it’s fair to say title is out of reach?

JA: At this stage I’m not really thinking about the championship. I’ve been in this situation before in championships and I think the key is just to take it session by session and race by race. Not disregard the championship because the result matters but it’s better to just focus on the next thing and just really take it step by step.

What are your plans for next season? Do you expect to remain in F2?

JA: I expect to be around here in some form or another. If not I’ll be pretty sad but like I said, I’ve got a bit of a learning curve going on at the moment and obviously there’s a lot of talk around F1 at the moment with seats changing hands and what not but I put my faith in Renault, if they don’t think I’m ready then probably they’ve got good reasons to say that. They know me well and I know them well and I think the trust is pretty good. Whatever they say to me about next year, if it’s another year in F2 then I’m happy to do that and learn as much as possible basically.

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Are there any other options aside from F2?

JA: We haven’t really spoken about too much. There’s always a small chance, a voice in my head saying I’d like to be in an F1 seat but I think that’s more the child in me wanting to have to go. F2 is the most likely option at the moment but I don’t know, I’m leaving it to Renault.

You mentioned the current driver market situation in F1, is that something you keep abreast of to see how that affect you and your own future?

JA: It’s very hard to predict. I can’t really predict my own future in F1 more than anyone else just because, as we’ve seen this year and in previous seasons it often depends on one guy who’s setting off a domino effect. For sure I keep abreast of it, more just because I do anyway and it’s interesting. But to try and control on it or act upon it, it’s very difficult.

You are part of a growing list of young British drivers coming through with George Russell and Lando Norris. How are you seeing that battle shaping out and do you feel slightly overshadowed by the hype around them?

JA: I’ve raced some of the guys for a while now and I’ve never really taken much notice about that side of things. It’s fair to say most of us don’t. Obviously it’s got a lot of attention this year, more so than previous years, for whatever reason. I think I always tend to focus on race by race and the next session. It’s doesn’t bother me that much at the end of the day.

Talking about your aims to get into F1, how vital has Renault’s support been to you?

JA: It really is. Without Renault it’s simple, I wouldn’t be here. I think that’s the case for a lot of drivers. It’s no secret that it takes a lot of investment to compete in these series and it’s not something I can do by myself. We have some sponsors but again it’s a very difficult environment to do that. It’s not only that side of it, it’s the opportunities I’m learning from that they give me. So to be able to be inside a team like that it’s very valuable.

Given the team’s ambitions to re-establish themselves at the top of F1’s pecking order and challenge for championships, do you feel you are at Renault at the right time?

JA: Yep. When I joined Renault it was with the view of, I thought they were the best option in terms of a long term future and they expressed a similar desire. I think it’s quite clear what their intentions are and they are going to get there one way or another, it’s just a question of when. You can see that by the drivers that are lining up to try and get seats here. I think everyone knows that it’s a pretty good place to be.

Do you see competition between yourself and Artem Markelov for a future F1 seat with Renault?

JA: Artem is in a slightly different position to me in a lot of senses because he’s quite experienced, it’s his fifth year in F2 and he’s been around for a while. He’s got a slightly different role in Renault for a few reasons and I don’t see… of course everyone is a competitor in some form or another and he’s a competitor on track in F2 but here in Renault I think about my own thing and I don’t really think about Artem.

Is there added pressure on you given the prospect of driving for this team?

JA: No. For me pressure is something we’ve always had and always dealt with. One year it’s the pressure to perform because you might get on a Renault programme and then it’s your first year so you have to perform to impress them and then you have to perform to keep on the programme. It never ends, there is always pressure for one reason or another so you get used to it.

So that gives you added motivation then to impress when you do get the chance like in the Barcelona F1 test?

JA: Yeah for sure. Especially when you get the chance to step up like that, it’s always exciting as a driver because you get to play in the new car and they are always fun days.

Is there any chance you could do an FP1 outing this year?

JA: I don’t really know. Again that’s more for them to decide and tell me if that’s appropriate. At the moment nothing is planned but I’ll cross my fingers and just wait and see. Nothing is completely off the cards and like I say they will judge it as they see it. They are not going to say absolutely not for the rest of the year but likewise it’s not set in stone that I will.