Alex Lynn

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WHAT A ROLLERCOASTER OF A FIRST WEEKEND IN GP2

Alex Lynn – GP2 Bahrain review

Wow – what a rollercoaster of a first weekend in the GP2 Series. And unfortunately it ended on a big down – from the high of being almost certain I was going to win on my debut, to the low of not scoring a single point. I’m absolutely gutted and so are my DAMS team.

Everything looked so good on Friday. In free practice we were strong. We practised qualifying pace, and that was good, and we practised a long race run, and that was good as well. I was third fastest, within a tenth of being quickest. Into qualifying, my first run was fairly safe, not great at all but not horrendous either, and it put me ninth. My second run was much better, and I qualified third despite getting held up in the last corner by Artem Markelov.

I definitely would have ended up on the front row ahead of Nobuharu Matsushita if it hadn’t been for that, although I don’t think it would have been enough to stop Stoffel Vandoorne from getting pole. I wasn’t technically impeded, but it just took my concentration away because I didn’t know if Markelov would get out of the way or not.

It didn’t really matter anyway, because Matsushita made a terrible start to the race on Saturday so I got second straight away. I was quite happy with my start – my first one in GP2 for real – and it was nice to get settled into second place.

Stoffel was on the medium tyres and I was on the softs, and the race never really got going before there was a safety car, because the big fight behind me for third between my team-mate Pierre Gasly, Norman Nato, Arthur Pic and Raffaele Marciello ended with them all colliding and getting stuck on the track. During the safety car the pit window opened – far too early for the guys on mediums to switch to softs and hope to finish the race on them, but definitely (or so we thought) OK for those of us on softs to get onto the medium.

So as I came into the pits I was pretty happy. You know when you’re so sure of something? Well, at that point I thought, ‘Bloody hell, I’m going to win on my debut.’ But what happened after that shows how many elements there are in GP2 racing.

The DAMS guys gave me the third quickest pit stop of the race, but unbelievably Alexander Rossi was 1.5 seconds quicker than everybody with the fastest pit stop in GP2 history… You know when you look back at all the elements that affected something? Well, that pit stop by Rossi was the key to everything transpiring against us.

At the restart we had 12 drivers who hadn’t yet pitted ahead of us, with Rossi 13th and me 14th. But everybody checked up on the inside into Turn 1 and it was one of those things – I ran up the back of him and snapped the endplate off the front wing, and the upper plane of the front wing was covering the main flap, causing a massive loss of downforce. That caused me a load of tyre problems.

I got on the radio to the team to ask about the damage and I think they told me a little bit of a white lie that it wasn’t too bad, but I guess there wasn’t a lot else they could do! So I carried on as normal. Actually I got up as far as eighth place, but after five laps I was thinking, ‘Mmm, this is starting to go off a bit.’ Then it dawned on me, ‘Blimey, this is going south quickly.’

I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. By the end of the race I was lapping 10 seconds off my earlier pace. I had unbelievable degradation – just huge – with massive oversteer. When you’re getting wheelspin in fourth and fifth gear you can’t do anything. I was literally shredding the tyres, and racing against other people sent them into oblivion. I really wondered whether it could have just all come from the wing damage, but my engineer was absolutely sure of it and said it had cost me 17 points of rear downforce, which already equates to a second a lap before you take the tyres into consideration.

So, I ended up 19th, which is therefore where I started the race on Sunday. Our pace was nothing special in this one, but I managed to save the tyres quite easily. It was a real tyre-conservation race, and I spent most of it just behind Pic as we made our way through the field. But you can’t run too close to the car in front and push as well, because that takes so much from your tyres, so that was a shame. I got up to 12th and then tried a move on Pic into Turn 1, but I locked up and flat-spotted the left front terribly, which shows how hard it is to come through the field.

I had a bit of a revisit to GP3 2014 by passing Richie Stanaway on the final lap for 11th, but it was all for nothing as I got a five-second time penalty for improving a sector time under yellow flags early in the race, dropping me to 15th. That was really unlucky. I’d spent the first four laps battling in that sector, and it was sod’s law that the first time through there on a clear track was under yellow. I slowed down, and it was third slowest sector of everyone, but it was my quickest of the race so far… My engineer did go up and argue but they weren’t having it.

So that was that. Who would have thought that me, Gasly, Marciello and Pic would all end the first weekend without a point? It shows how complex GP2 is. It was nice to outqualify a quick team-mate like Pierre and be leading him in the races, but it’s a bit of a shame it had to end like that. Even so, I’ve got quite a few positives to take away and I’m sure we’ll bounce back in round two at Barcelona.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING? TO CRACK ON WITH WINNING IN GP2


Alex Lynn – GP2 Bahrain preview


As I write this, I’m in Bahrain getting ready for my first race in the GP2 Series this weekend. It’s been a positive winter since I won the GP3 title last November, and I’m stepping up to GP2 with DAMS, the team that took Jolyon Palmer to the big prize last year.

It’s genuinely really exciting, because there are some very quick GP2 drivers staying on from last year as well as champions and race winners – like me – stepping up from lower categories. For those of us who are coming up from GP3 or Formula 3, there are some fascinating aspects of racing that we’ve never sampled before: pit stops and different tyre compounds mean there’s strategy to bear in mind, and then there’s the DRS, which is new for GP2 this year and which changes the wing angle on the straight to aid overtaking. I’ve spent all my junior career trying to go as fast as possible, and now I also have all these different elements to take into account.

Everything is looking really positive heading into the weekend. I feel that we’re in the position where if everything goes right, then we’ve got the chance of winning. If I perform how I should, and if the car performs how I know it should, we’ll be up there fighting.

We’ve tested at Bahrain and, to be honest, there’s not a lot to the track. It’s not a classic by any means, but what that does mean is that everybody is really close together on lap time. I think it lends itself quite nicely to the DAMS car, which has always been very good in qualifying, so I’m looking forward with bated breath to Friday, when we’ll all be going for pole!

The qualifying session should be classic. On the morning of the last day of the final test, we had what was like a 100 per cent qualifying session practice, and the top six of us were all within a couple of tenths of a second. That just proves how close it’s going to be and how everything’s going to come down to the closest of margins. It reminds me a little bit of my season in the European Formula 3 Championship in 2013 – you could put together what you thought was the perfect lap, then find you were still a tenth off and only third on the grid! The closeness of us all, and the fact that there are so many competitive drivers, means everyone’s going to be taking points off each other so I can’t see anyone running away with it.

On race runs we’ve been looking positive, and I’ve always been strong in this area anyway. With strategy coming into it as well that means we’ll be looking quite good.

I’m also enjoying working with my new team-mate Pierre Gasly. We spent quite a lot of time together last year, so we were already very friendly. We complement each other quite nicely and, although this is also his first full season in GP2, he did at least do some of the races at the end of last year. We’re both quite inexperienced in this category, but I feel that we can bounce ideas off each other so that we’re both going quickly. Anyway, it’s all going nicely with Pierre, but obviously it’ll get serious when we start competing against each other for the first time!

The other great thing that happened over the winter was being named development driver for the Williams Formula 1 team. Everyone at the factory has really taken me under their wing, but right now I’m just going to concentrate on doing my thing in GP2. I’ll probably pop my head in at Williams for the Grand Prix, but the most important thing is to crack on with winning in GP2!

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