Felipe Nasr said he and Pipo Derani’s victory in Saturday’s Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring was “such a gift” after “going through a lot” in the last few weeks amid his recovery and clearance to race after contracting COVID-19.
The Brazilian duo claimed a dominant win in Nasr’s first race back in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R since testing positive for the virus earlier this month that ruled him out of the WeatherTech 240 at Daytona.
While only having “very minor” symptoms, the 2018 IMSA DPi champion was officially cleared to race yesterday after completing two negative test results for the coronavirus.
Gabby Chaves subbed for the ex-Formula 1 driver at Daytona, teaming with Derani for a fifth place finish.
Two weeks later, Derani and Nasr stood on the top step of the podium.
“I really went through a lot the last days,” Nasr said. “[I was] frustrated but something I couldn’t control.
“My first intention was to protect the team. It was hard to miss Daytona but I only have to thank the Action Express Racing team, our partners, Whelen, everybody that’s [stood by] me.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to come back to IMSA and be on the top step of the podium.
“I want to thank God. I’ve asked him a lot to be here today and [for me to be] healthy.
“Being able to pull off this win is such a gift. I can’t describe.”
Nasr combined with Derani to lead 79 of the 83 laps in Saturday’s race in what could be described as a commanding run.
When asked by Sportscar365 on if he felt any challenges in returning to driving on Friday, after fully recovering from COVID-19 and more than five months out of the cockpit due to the pandemic lockdown, Nasr said he “didn’t feel a difference at all.”
“All I had was to take my first laps to get into the flow,” he said. “Just like riding a bicycle you can’t forget it.
“I have to credit the Action Express team for giving us an amazing car.
“The setup with pretty good to work on ourselves. From day one we hit the track it was just awesome to drive the car.
“I felt great the whole weekend during all times I was in the car.
“I [can] definitely say I’m back. I thank everybody for sending supportive messages as well during the tough time.
“But again, I just felt pretty good out there and I’m really glad to capitalize on a win for the Whelen Engineering car.”
Derani Picks Up Fourth Sebring Win in Five Attempts
While Nasr and Derani picked up back-to-back wins at Sebring follow their and Eric Curran’s triumph in the 2019 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Saturday’s win in the two-hour and 40-minute sprint race marked Derani’s fourth victory out of five attempts at the historic Florida circuit.
“I think this place likes me,” he said. “It was a fantastic day for us. We had our last win last year at Petit Le Mans, and having those two races at Daytona not go our way was not what this team [was expecting].
“I really love this place. It’s fantastic when you can roll out of the truck with the setup we have today… I was lucky with traffic myself. I seem to hit them at the right place in order to also save fuel. It was one of those days that everything worked perfect for us.
“We had a fantastic car this weekend. We proved [it] from FP2 all the way to a 30-second victory.”