Alex Lynn – GP2 Spa-Francorchamps review
It was a bit of a frustrating weekend all round at Spa for me and the DAMS team in the GP2 Series, with my last-lap pass on Sergio Canamasas giving us the only point of the event.
We went to Belgium with high hopes. Last time out in Hungary I’d taken my first feature-race win, with my team-mate Pierre Gasly chasing me home in a one-two for DAMS. So with Pierre failing to score at all at Spa, and me getting scuppered by a safety car in race one, it showed how quickly things can change in GP2.
Everything was in control in free practice, where I was fourth fastest. Right from the off on Friday the car felt really nice, we had good pace and we seemed to be on really strong form. The qualifying session that afternoon was massively disappointing though. The car felt good again, I felt I was driving well, but on my second set of tyres I didn’t manage to hook up a lap. I made a few mistakes, the main one being at the Bus Stop chicane, and that compounded things. From being comfortably in the top six on the first set of tyres, I dropped to ninth by the end of the session.
The first race got off to a good start, and for a very brief moment I even had fourth place, but Mitch Evans got a run on me down the hill and was on the inside for Eau Rouge – still, ninth to fifth was pretty nice; it was like the sea parted for me!
I then lost a place to Jordan King on lap two. We had a side-by-side run down the hill, but this time I was on the inside for Eau Rouge and just squeezed in front, although he was able to get me back. Good racing, with just enough room given. A lot of people have mentioned how close we were, but it didn’t feel that bad really – it’s all in the day job!
We’d started the race on the harder prime tyre, and as so often we lost out big time when Daniel de Jong crashed and the safety car came out. It allowed loads of people from all down the field who’d started on the soft tyre to get a pit-stop for free, but it was too early for us to change onto the soft and get to the end of the race. Even more galling, the race was then red-flagged – if they’d stopped the race immediately, we would have been fine; probably better off even.
I’d been trying to control my pace on the prime tyre, and it was all looking really good and it looked like I was settling into a nice race, but the safety car ruined everything. Later on in the race I pitted for soft tyres, but I have to say our pace wasn’t particularly strong on them. They weren’t lasting very long and our pace wasn’t strong enough to dig us out of the hole.
So I ended up 11th, which became my grid position for Sunday’s sprint race. And, with Spa being good for racing on and a few of the lesser-fancied runners ahead of me on the grid after good results on Saturday, I was hopeful we could salvage something. I did – just!
It was quite a close race, but I spent much of it stuck behind Canamasas, getting a pretty good view of the rear of his car – and quite often the side of it… I couldn’t really get the run that I needed through Eau Rouge to make use of the DRS properly, and anyway quite often he was also within DRS range of the car in front, so that neutralised any benefit I might get. He was running off the track at Eau Rouge and the Paul Frere curve onto the back straight, so that was giving him a monster run.
I did try one move on the run to Les Combes, and there was a little bit of contact – when you’re up behind him it’s sort of a given that there’s going to be some of that. Finally I got him with a switchback move out of the hairpin on the last lap, and it was nice to do that and get a point. Also, that last lap showed us that we had good pace, so that was the main positive.
A lot of the guys around me in the championship suffered similarly with the safety car badly affecting their strategy in the first race, so there’s not too much harm done and I’m still very much going for second in the points, but obviously there are some good weekends needed. Next one is Monza and I’m really positive for that one, so let’s see what happens.
Alex Lynn – GP2 Spa-Francorchamps preview
It’s almost a month now since I took my first GP2 pole position and feature race win at the Hungaroring. Theoretically it’s nice to have that period of time feeling on top of the world, but in reality much of the time I’ve been working hard preparing for this weekend’s round at Spa.
When I say ‘much of the time’, I don’t mean ‘all the time’. I managed to get away on holiday for a few days, and then I went to watch my beloved Arsenal at home on the first day of the new Premier League season. What should have been a lovely day out turned out to be a really annoying one, because we lost two-nil to West Ham!
Other than that, the week after Hungary I was in the simulator most of the time at Williams, where I’m development driver for the Formula 1 team, and then since my holiday I’ve been doing a lot of training. Then, as usual, it was down to Le Mans to prepare with the DAMS team for Spa. Usually we head to Paris from there and fly out to the race, but this time we’re on a five-and-a-half-hour road trip today – me, the team and my team-mate Pierre Gasly.
Any racing driver naturally looks forward to Spa a lot. It just speaks for itself, what it means to race there. It’s such a great circuit to drive, and gives you an incredible sensation. Of course, the most famous corner is Eau Rouge, which certainly isn’t easy-flat in a GP2 car and wasn’t in GP3 either last year. The speed the car does, especially without power-steering, it’s quite a handful to muscle it through. Apart from that the whole circuit is so high-speed and flowing, it gives you such pleasure to drive at speed.
I won in GP3 there on my way to the title last year. It was a strange weekend, with typical Spa weather conditions. We had the debacle of changing tyres on the grid so I had to come through from the back to finish eighth in the first race, which was really satisfying, and then I won the reversed-grid race after a great battle with Richie Stanaway – we just carried that on from the first race! Going back to my British F3 days there in 2012, I was quick there in practice and qualifying, so I feel confident and relaxed ahead of this weekend.
DAMS are normally quite good there too. Jolyon Palmer qualified on the front row last year and the car is always competitive at Spa, so we should be looking forward to another strong weekend, seeing if we can build on our Hungary form and get some nice healthy points. Realistically Stoffel Vandoorne has to do an amazing job of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory to lose the title now, but second in the championship is definitely on for me, and if we can pull that off it will have been a great year, especially if I can start beating Stoffel consistently. That will be a good comeback, as there were a whole lot of contributing factors to us not getting the results our potential showed earlier in the season. Now, I feel confident we know what to do in most circumstances.
Lastly, Pirelli have gone for the hard tyre as the prime for this weekend and the soft as the option. That’s quite a big jump between the two compounds and I’m expecting a big difference. Bearing in mind the traditional Spa weather, let’s see if we get to use the soft at all… It actually looks OK as far as the forecast is concerned, but I don’t want to curse it! Regardless, it should be very interesting strategy-wise.
Whatever the weather does, I’m going into Spa much more chilled about things than last season. It was huge stress with all that rain lottery when I was leading the GP3 championship, but this time I feel that you can throw up any variable and we’ll deal with it.
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