Antonio Fuoco: “I’ve made a Big Step Forward”

Antonio Fuoco is a rising star in motorsport. The eighteen-year-old from Cosenza in Italy is a member of the Ferrari Driving Academy, and in only his second season in single-seater racing, he currently drives for the Prema Powerteam outfit in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, and won a race on his debut weekend at Silverstone.

The Italian is one of a number of highly talented rookies in European Formula 3 this year, and despite winning race three at Silverstone in April, he finds himself fourth best of the rookies in the championship and fifth overall. Two of the other first-year drivers, Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen, currently lead the way, but Fuoco believes that once he has the experience, he will be right back up with them in the races.

“Esteban had already driven a bit in Eurocup last year and has a bit more experience than me,” said Fuoco to The Checkered Flag. “As for Max, at the start of the year he was behind me and then at Spa he caught us out and was a bit stronger and that’s how he got ahead of us in the championship. But there are still 12 races to go so anything could happen.”

The Italian looked back at his weekends in Belgium and Germany, where he showed good pace but ultimately did not get the results they deserved. He made a mistake in the wet second qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps that saw him start well out of position, while in Germany he was running in a podium position before an accident knocked him out.

In Belgium, free practice went very well, as did qualifying 1 when I was third,” said Fuoco. “Then in qualifying 2 I made a small mistake and didn’t manage to do a single lap. In Germany I was in the top ten. In the first race there was an accident but it’s a track I’d never seen before. So there were some positive aspects but other bits went really badly.”

Fuoco seemed to get his season back on track in Russia last time out with two podium finishes, his first podiums since Hungary in June. He felt disadvantaged compared to team-mate Ocon, who dominated the weekend with three wins, with the Frenchman having had previous experience at the Russian track.

“He’d [Ocon] already raced there the previous year in Formula Renault, so he had the experience that we did not,” reflected Fuoco. “That immediately made a difference and we did very little running, so he was more able to adapt. But I still got two podiums so all in all it wasn’t too bad.”

The Italian is hopeful of getting some good results in the remaining races at the Red Bull Ring, the Nurburgring, Imola and Hockenheim, and is looking to close the gap to Mücke Motorsport’s Lucas Auer and Jagonya Ayam with Carlin’s Tom Blomqvist in the championship. Austrian Auer is 49 points ahead of Fuoco in third position in the championship, with Briton Blomqvist 46 points ahead in fourth.

“I think I should be in the top three,” said Fuoco about the upcoming races. “I have been missing some wins since Silverstone. All we need to do is to work well with the team and good results will come quickly.

“I wouldn’t say those two [Auer and Blomqvist] are quicker than me, it’s just that they’ve completed more races. So from here to the end, if I could do as I did in Moscow and Budapest then I can have a good championship.”

Fuoco admits to having had to adjust his driving to suit the Formula 3 cars, having moved up from Formula Renault 2.0 in 2013, which was his first year in single seater cars. He feels his development this season is important for his career, and already has his eye on stepping up even further next year, possibly to either the GP3 Series or Formula Renault 3.5, but feels GP2 might be a step too far this early in his career.

“I had to make a lot of changes as the tyres are different, the car has more power so you need a different style. But already at last year’s tests, I got into the right rhythm and I didn’t struggle too much in the races.

“It is a very important year for me but I still need much more experience, because it’s only my second year in cars and so I’ve already made a very big step forward compared to last year.

”I’d say it’s still too early for GP2. But GP3, yes, it’s a series that runs parallel to Formula 3 but the standard of the drivers is a bit higher. I’d say that the World Series seems to have stalled a bit this year in terms of its level, so I think World Series and GP3 are possible. There are no plans as yet.”