Honda protege Nirei Fukuzumi feels the switch between FIA Formula 2 Championship and Super Formula has been tough on him especially adjusting between the two cars.
Fukuzumi gradated to F2 from GP3 Series this year with BWT Arden alongside Maximilian Gunther and also races in Super Formula with Team Mugen Honda alongside Naoki Yamamoto. He has only raced in one Super Formula round so far though.
The Japanese driver was a front-runner in GP3 with ART last year but so far has had a difficult rookie F2 season as he sits 18th with just 11 points in eight rounds, whereas Gunther is 12th with 39, having already scored a win and a podium so far.
Fukuzumi only scored his best result of sixth in the last round at Hungaroring, but it carried less points as it was the sprint race. In the lone Super Formula round, he had to retire as his teammate Yamamoto leads with 22 points.
In Fukuzumi’s absence Sena Sakaguchi and Dan Ticktum filled up for him, but he will return to the premier Japanese single-seater racing for the rounds in Motegi, Okayama and Suzuka as it doesn’t clash with any of the F2 rounds.
One of the reasons Fukuzumi feels he is unable to perform in F2 is because of the braking difference between the two cars he has to drive this season. The Red Bull driver admits he hasn’t been able to find the right balance and confidence while braking in F2.
“I’ve found the move okay, it’s just really tough,” he said when asked where he needs to improve. “In testing I was a little bit far off my teammate, but I think I’m really enjoying driving the new car and I’m getting used to it.
“But yeah, I can only say it’s tough, I want to do a good job in all the circuits but I’m struggling with qualifying. I’m always nowhere. I’m missing some time compared to my teammate, which makes me a bit disappointed.
“Because I’m doing Super Formula as well, this year I’ve always been adjusting. Braking is something I need to get used to, I was good under braking in the GP3 car, but in the F2 car I don’t have the confidence under braking yet. This is maybe my biggest problem.
“I’ve got four races coming up in August [now]. So I’m in Japan [Motegi], then Spa, Monza, and then back to Japan [Okayama] – it’s going to be really tough. When you go from Super Formula to an F2 car, it’s hard – the braking is so different.
“The Super Formula car needs a really high pressure in comparison, so I’m struggling to find the balance between the two. Baku was the most difficult one, because braking’s very important and I was so worried to hit the pedal,” he explained.
The Japanese driver has had to make a big shift from ART to Arden. He admitted communication with his engineer was an issue at the start of the season, but it has improved a lot over the races.
In general as well, Fukuzumi can now speak in English on his own without the need of a translator. He has fellow Honda driver Tadasuke Makino competing alongside him in F2 for Russian Time and he is friends with Alex Albon, George Russell and Jack Aitken.
The 21-year-old is also a Red Bull Japan athlete this year but he is not part of the Red Bull Junior Team. “It’s a good opportunity to me to work with Red Bull,” he said. “I don’t know whether I’ll ever have the chance to race with them in F1 [though].
“But having them with me makes me a lot stronger. It’s a lot more pressure with Red Bull, but I’m getting used to it and I’m feeling a lot better about it – and it’s just a shame to wear the Red Bull logos when I’m nowhere.”