Winning in F2 was harder than in Super Formula - Matsushita
Nobuharu Matsushita feels it was harder to win races in Formula 2 than in Super Formula after securing his first victory in the latter category.
Having spent four seasons in GP2/F2 as a Honda junior, and then funding an additional campaign with his own money, Matsushita scored a total of seven wins in the Formula 1 feeder series, two of which came in feature races - including his final victory at Barcelona in 2020.
The 28-year-old has been a mainstay of the Super Formula grid since losing his F2 drive with MP Motorsport midway through the 2020 season, joining the minnow B-Max Racing team and delivering the squad a long-awaited first victory in the championship last month in wet conditions at Suzuka.
He therefore joins current AlphaTauri F1 racer Pierre Gasly and Stoffel Vandoorne in an exclusive club of drivers to have won races in both categories.
But despite having to wait until his fourth season in Super Formula to stand on the top step of the podium, Matsushita admitted that he feels his feature race wins in F2 are bigger achievements.
"Winning in F2 was everything for me," Matsushita told Motorsport.com. "I don’t want to say Super Formula is easy, of course it’s really tough, but winning a feature race in F2 is more difficult for sure.
"Everyone is more aggressive, and personally for me it was a bigger thing."
Asked about his apparent lack of emotion after his Suzuka win compared to other recent first-time winners, Matsushita replied: "[Maybe it's because] I won a few times in F2…
"It’s better to be like this [relaxed], showing so much emotion is not my way. I don’t like this kind of drama. But if I win the championship… I don’t think I will cry, but maybe… let’s see!"
Matsushita's Suzuka win came on a day characterised by a slowly-drying track and a need to take care of the delicate Yokohama wet tyres, with the rain negating the need for a mandatory pitstop.
Some drivers suffered a catastrophic lack of pace as they overheated the tyres, leading some to come in the pits regardless.
But Matsushita said that his knowledge of the Pirelli tyre in F2 was an important factor in his first Super Formula win.
"It was all about managing [tyre] temperature and degradation," he explained. "I was communicating well with [B-Max team boss Satoshi] Motoyama, he was able to help me stay calm, which was an important point.
"The surface temperature was crucial. That was why I tried not to spin up the wheels, because this heats the tyre surface and increases the [tyre] pressure as well. I was just doing what I used to do in F2."
Matsushita's victory leaves him third in the championship ahead of this weekend's fourth round of the season at Autopolis, after he failed to score points in a disastrous opening double-header at Fuji Speedway.
However, he faces a daunting 36-point deficit to reigning champion Tomoki Nojiri, whom he passed to win at Suzuka.
"Winning one race gives me extra confidence for everything, so I feel a little bit more chilled out, relaxed," said Matsushita. "The atmosphere [in the team] is much better than it was before as well.
"I think everything is going in the right direction now. Now we are understanding our weaknesses much better, so we can start pushing in the specific areas we are missing.
"Before we didn’t really know our weak points, we just knew we didn’t have enough grip. But now we have more information.
"For sure it will be good for us if it’s raining [at Autopolis], but I want to see our performance in the dry because I think we improved a lot since last year."
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