Alex Lynn – GP2 Hungaroring review
I have to admit, I think I underestimated how good it would feel to win a GP2 Series feature race. OK, I won the reversed-grid sprint race at Barcelona earlier in the year, but my Hungaroring win from my first GP2 pole position on Saturday felt like another string to my bow, another thing to notch up.
I felt confident after free practice, where we were third, but I have to say we were a bit further behind Stoffel Vandoorne, the championship leader and ‘The Man’ in GP2 this year, than we’d have liked. He was a little bit ahead in free practice, and we felt we needed to improve.
So with the DAMS boys we set to work and… well, the qualifying session was a bit strange really. We did something really unusual for GP2, which was to take our second set of tyres and go and nail a lap in the middle of the session while everyone was in the pits between runs. I did it just right, banged in the lap on a clear track and that gave me pole, and we only needed that one lap.
It was a bit risky because someone could easily have come out just after me and been on a slow lap when I was on my flier and delayed me, but if we’d gone out with everyone else then you couldn’t warm the tyres and peak them properly. Certainly Hungaroring is the only place where you could make that work, with the heat and the characteristics of the track.
We went for the riskier strategy in race one of starting on the prime, harder tyres – that’s a gamble because you could always get scuppered by a safety car. There WAS a safety car, but thankfully it came just early enough for none of those to have started on the soft option tyre to make their stop under caution. With the luck we’ve had this year, we wanted to not lose a race because we’d gone on the slower strategy – the one we chose was definitely quicker, even if it was theoretically a risk.
It was touch-and-go at mid-distance because our pace on the medium wasn’t great compared to Stoffel, who by now had switched to the medium and was flying with them being fresh. We pitted with 15 laps to go, which is very very early to take the option tyres, and when I came out I couldn’t even see him – he was about two corners in front. I thought that was that, but the options gave loads of grip and kept getting better and better.
I still needed to pass Stoffel and Rio Haryanto, but once I’d got into my rhythm I thought it was going to be clear-cut, and it was really. Races like that are really important for my career, and it felt so nice to put it all together on a weekend. I’ve said quite a lot this year that when we do that we’ll be there, but at the same time everyone was still waiting to see it… It’s a real weight off my shoulders and a great feeling. The team made so many great calls to make it happen.
The second race was a bit of an odd one. My win put me eighth on the reversed grid, I dropped to ninth in the jostling on the first lap, then later I fell back to 10th before recovering to ninth, just behind my team-mate Pierre Gasly. Certainly we didn’t have anywhere near the speed we’d had in race one. The track temperature had dropped dramatically and we just couldn’t do what we wanted to with the car. This is one thing we’ve got to sort out, unlocking the speed when conditions are cooler, and once we do that hopefully we’ll be in good shape on the whole weekend in all weathers.
The win has now put me well in the hunt for second in the championship. Of course, I’ll try to win the championship as long as its mathematically possible, but Stoffel is comfortably ahead and second is still a good target in my rookie GP2 season. I’ve just got to keep on building on the foundations we’ve got now.
Alex Lynn – GP2 Hungaroring preview
As I write this I’m on my way with the DAMS team from their workshop in Le Mans to the Hungaroring for the next round of the GP2 Series, looking forward to stepping into the furnace! The temperatures at the moment are in the high thirties and even low forties, so you can imagine what it’s going to be like cocooned in a racing car in all my fireproof gear – pretty horrible.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I always spend a couple of days at DAMS before we travel together to the next race, but before that I’ve had a couple of weeks since Silverstone with the Williams Formula 1 team. As usual it’s been great. I had a week with the windtunnel people after Silverstone, and followed that with a week in the marketing department. I’m getting so much info about what makes a Formula 1 team work – now I just want to drive one of the cars again!
For now it’s GP2 though. We had a good run at Silverstone if you look at our pace, and as usual we go to a race in confidence. Everything being normal, with nothing unexpected happening, we should be fast. At the Hungaroring it will be all about putting it together at the right time and delivering at the right moment.
Tyres will be a key factor here. Recently we’ve had Monaco, where qualifying was wet, followed by the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone, so that was three races in a row where the influence of the tyres was fairly non-existent. But now we go to a race where we need to save those Pirellis quite a lot.
The circuit is full of long, medium-speed corners, and it will be baking hot, and we’ll be using the soft-compound tyre, so put those factors all together and you’re going to see a lot of degradation. Usually we can get two hot laps out of each of our two sets of tyres in qualifying, but I think in Hungary it’ll be a one-lap shootout.
Those same things that affect tyre wear are going to make it very hard for the drivers too. The two races this weekend are going to be very physical for sure, and I’m glad I’ve done a lot of preparation over the past couple of weeks. We always do quite a lot of training to be ready for a race like this.
I’ve raced at the Hungaroring in GP3 and before that in Formula Renault, and I always seem to go quite well there. I did a wild-card race there in Formula Renault Eurocup in 2011 and finished sixth – it’s funny looking back, because I was behind Daniil Kvyat and Stoffel Vandoorne, who were doing the full season, and ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr and Will Stevens. Look at where we all are now! Also I was on the front row there in GP3 last year, so it’s a track I’m comfortable on, even if it’s not a classic to drive.
Most important, though, is it’s so hard to overtake there. That makes qualifying even more important than usual. We need to focus on repeating the results we had at the start of the year, sticking it up there. The last few weekends we’ve proved what we can do in the races, so we just need to do the job in qualifying and carry it on from there.
Alex Lynn – GP2 Silverstone review
Two finishes in the top six at the British Grand Prix GP2 Series support races gave me good points, but it was a solid weekend rather than a very spectacular one, to be honest.
The DAMS team arrived at Silverstone in what seemed to be good shape, and I was only pipped by a fraction of a second for the fastest time in Free Practice. Right from the off we were totally confident with the prime (harder) tyre, and the balance of the car felt really nice.
That seemed to put us in the mix for Qualifying, but unfortunately we just didn’t unlock any speed on the softer option tyre – the car felt the same as it had done on the prime. I was fourth on my first set of tyres, which wasn’t too bad, but then didn’t improve at all on the second and I ended up 12th, which was very frustrating.
Even so, we went into the first race on Saturday confident with the pace our car had shown on the prime tyre in free practice. We knew that if we got the strategy right we could come up the order, and that’s pretty much how it played out.
That was despite losing a place on the first lap – it got very congested at The Loop, a tight hairpin, and I got squeezed between two cars. But what’s good about GP2 races is that you can play it a little bit safe and you know the race will come to you, especially if you start on the prime tyre. Sure enough, once those who’d started on the option pitted, I was up to eighth and catching the group ahead – it’s nice to build your race like that, pumping in the lap times, and we put in some very quick laps.
My pit-stop was perfectly timed and I have to say a big thank you to the DAMS boys – they did it in 4.8 seconds, which is the fastest they’ve ever done and, when you consider there’s only one man on each wheel in GP2, that’s amazing. That allowed me to jump Raffaele Marciello and Arthur Pic, and once the stops played out I was behind my team-mate Pierre Gasly.
Pierre and I both passed Nick Yelloly and Jordan King – both of whom had started on the option tyre and made early stops for the prime – in the late stages and that gave me fifth place. In clear air I’d again set fastest laps, but I was denied any bonus points for that late in the race when the guys at the front went slightly quicker while I was a bit stuck in traffic. Still, it was a great result from a difficult qualifying.
That fifth place gave me fourth for the reversed-grid race on Sunday. I got up to third immediately and almost grabbed second from Marciello, but Pierre managed to get around the outside of me at Turn 1, which wasn’t great. Then a couple of laps into the race Alexander Rossi passed me for fourth – he went over the track limits and got a five-second penalty for that.
My pace wasn’t fantastic. It was a bad judgement call from my engineer and me to change the car so much. It’s always a lot cooler in the Sunday morning races, so you lose rear-tyre grip, and we overcompensated too much. I ended up with no front grip, and because the front-left was so dead I had to try to kill the rears to get the balance back! That’s why it came across on TV as me having a lot of oversteer, because I was winding the rear-brake bias so much to try to back the car into the corners.
I think Rossi had the same problem and it was only Yelloly, who was behind me, who seemed to have any front-tyre grip. I managed to hold him off for quite a while and from what people have told me we got most of the TV coverage! At least I will have given plenty of exposure to Fawsley Hall Hotel & Spa, whose livery I was carrying this weekend as it’s part of the Hand Picked Hotels group, my sponsor this year. So I hope the folks from Fawsley Hall enjoyed the battle!
In the end Nick got past me and I only just managed to hold onto sixth, but it could have been a lot worse and I’m glad we got the points. Certainly, it was great to race in front of my home crowd, and to spend the Grand Prix itself with the Williams team – that was pretty exciting!
I just wish that, for me, Silverstone could have been better but it’s another one for the experience bank. I genuinely feel that every weekend we’re moving forward, and I’m sure we’re not far off putting together a good qualifying and a good start to fight for more wins.
Alex Lynn – GP2 Silverstone preview
For a British driver like me, Silverstone is always a special place and the British Grand Prix is always a special event. I got my first taste of racing at my home Grand Prix in the GP3 Series last year, and it really was something else, and now we’re going back this weekend for GP2.
Silverstone has always been my favourite circuit and it’s had a unique place in my heart since I was young. I was nine years old when I saw my first Grand Prix there, and at the time I was a massive Michael Schumacher fan – I still am actually. Me and my dad were standing on the inside of Copse Corner, and seeing him come out of the old pit lane and fire onto the circuit in his Ferrari was amazing – everyone remembers the first time they saw a Formula 1 car, and I’ll never forget that.
Obviously, I hadn’t even been born when the 1990 season was in full swing, but it was a car from that year that I drove at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend, where Williams let me loose in Thierry Boutsen’s old FW13B. That was slightly frightening but mega-cool. One moment that will always stick in my mind is when I was sitting there ready for the start, and I looked in the tiny mirrors and saw my GP2 rival Stoffel Vandoorne sitting behind me in the bright, dayglo McLaren MP4/6 that Ayrton Senna raced in 1991! That was a surreal moment.
The 3.5-litre Renault V10 engine in the Williams has got a serious amount of power and the tyres are so wide at the back. With the steering being so direct I was squirrelling all over the place on a ridiculously narrow course. I was being cautious, let’s say, but it was a great experience, especially with that engine singing behind me.
Then it was down to Le Mans for a couple of days to prepare for Silverstone with the DAMS team at their base. Generally we spend the Monday to Wednesday together before travelling together to the races on the Wednesday afternoon. This time we’ve debriefed the last weekend at the Red Bull Ring, where we showed serious pace, and prebriefed Silverstone, as well as doing simulator stuff.
I think we’re looking pretty good for Silverstone. Race teams are famously cautious when it comes to expectations for a weekend, and never like to go in too confident, but Silverstone has been a happy hunting ground for DAMS in the past and hopefully this year will be no exception.
Silverstone is a bit of an anomaly as far as the circuits on the GP2 calendar are concerned. We use the hard and the medium compounds of the Pirelli tyres, but Silverstone is one of those tracks where the harder the compound the faster you can be. There are so many long, fast corners that the energy in the rubber is so high that you need quite stiff tyres to go fast. It’s very demanding on the tyres, and we think it will be a fast pace in the race.
I’ve always had great results at Silverstone: I scored three wins there in Formula Renault UK, I took a pole position as a wildcard there in the Formula Renault Eurocup, I claimed my first-ever Formula 3 win there and I got pole there on my first proper weekend in European F3. Needless to say, we’re all focused on having another really good outing there. We’ve shown so much speed and all we need to do now is put the whole weekend together – it would be so nice to get my second GP2 race win at home.
Just to make the weekend even more special, we’re running a great livery here for Fawsley Hall Hotel & Spa: it’s a beautiful hotel just down the road from Silverstone that forms part of the Hand Picked Hotels group, which is my sponsor this year. Fawsley Hall is a wonderful place to stay, so we’ll be aiming to put their name on the top step of the podium too.
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