Alex Lynn - GP2 Spa Review
That was a really satisfying pair of races in the GP2 Series at Spa, and to finish third in the feature race and sixth in the sprint race showed again that the DAMS team is definitely moving in the right direction.
The races were even more satisfying because Friday – when we have free practice and qualifying – was in general not what we wanted. I was 12th in free practice and then eighth in qualifying, and we were struggling for pace on new tyres. It’s a shame, because that meant we ended up quite a way off pole, and I’m not saying we would be in the class of the Prema cars but we definitely could have got a lot closer.
It was the middle sector, with the high-speed corners, that for us was pretty average. We’ve made a lot of changes to the car over the past 12 months and I don’t think it went our way on Friday. We were just struggling with the balance. Still, at least our straight-line speed was good, so I’m looking forward to Monza next weekend!
From eighth on the grid I made a really good start to the feature race and I was even briefly into fourth. I was just minding my own business through La Source when I got a hit from Antonio Giovinazzi, and although it didn’t damage my car it really compromised me, because it gave Raffaele Marciello a run on me through Eau Rouge and now I was having to defend seventh.
Our pace was good on the soft tyres but I pitted as soon as we could to try to get the undercut and that worked. It vaulted me ahead of Giovinazzi and Marciello and now I was into play for fifth. On the hard tyres I caught and passed Gustav Malja – I actually did a double pass on him and Daniel de Jong, who was running long on the hard tyres, so that felt good!
Then I just tried to focus on my own race. It looked like I was going to finish fourth but fortunately for me, and unfortunately for him, Norman Nato broke down, so that put me on the podium. Could I have challenged Jordan King for second if Giovinazzi hadn’t hit me at the first corner and cost me that time? Definitely possible, but even so I was really happy with third.
With the reversed grid that put me sixth in the line-up for Sunday’s race. Again I made a good start to get up to fifth, but I made a mistake at the left-hander before Pouhon and that cost me a couple of places over the next couple of corners. It was very processional for much of the race, and I was running eighth, but then it looked as though some people’s tyres started to go off.
Over the closing laps I got into a battle with Jordan and Artem Markelov and it was really nice to pick off both of them to finish sixth. That was damage-limitation, to finish where we started. I had a few balance issues but it was a pretty solid race and a good weekend.
Overall, Spa was a big step forward for us, and it was very satisfying to back on a feature-race podium after a long absence. We had strong pace, fantastic pit stops, and it’s great to be still heading in the right direction as we look forward to Monza next weekend.
Alex Lynn - GP2 Spa preview
It’s been almost a month since we last raced in the GP2 Series and now we’re finally back in action this weekend supporting the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.
It may be a long time since I’ve been out on track in my DAMS car, but to be honest I’ve been flat-out, mainly with training. Apart from one weekend off, I’ve been really busy. I know a lot of the other people in the GP2 paddock have been off for holidays, but after the season we’ve had so far I don’t feel I earned one. Since the last race at Hockenheim, I just threw myself straight into training and focusing.
Of course, Hockenheim ended what had been a pretty miserable few weeks on a genuine upturn. I felt really comfortable with the car, and I felt that a front row in qualifying and a podium in the feature race were definitely do-able. And then, of course, I won the sprint race to send us into the summer break on a high.
Normally I’d be writing a preview on the way from the DAMS workshop in Le Mans to the race. But with the break we’ve had it enabled me to go to Le Mans last week instead, doing all my preparation for the race weekend. Hopefully we’ll hit the ground running after the summer break and keep making those steps forward.
Instead, I’m at my friend Darren Turner’s Base Performance Simulators, near where I live in Oxford, just making sure I’m in the groove of driving a GP2 car at Spa before I head off to Heathrow airport and get the flight to Belgium.
Can we build on what we gained at Hockenheim? I think so. The nature of GP2 is that it’s always very difficult to validate what’s been done until you get out on the track. But let’s look at it another way. From where we were at Silverstone two race weekends earlier, we’ve moved forward massively and I’ve taken my second win of the season. It’s all about keeping together and moving in the same direction.
Of course, we all love Spa and Monza, which comes the following weekend, so this is the stage of the season where everyone looks forward to some proper, historic, very fast tracks. It’s funny, because although I’ve usually had bad luck at Spa and struggled for results, I’m still really looking forward to it.
It looks like we’ll be using the hard Pirelli as the prime tyre at Spa and the soft as the option. That’s a nice combination and the same configuration as last year – the hard is definitely what you need in the race and the soft is a great qualifying tyre. But regardless of the tyres, I’m just looking forward to getting back in the car. Even the weather’s looking OK, which is unusual for Spa, so fingers crossed it will be a smooth weekend and we can kick on and make more progress.
GP2 Hockenheim review
After the tough time we’ve had lately in the GP2 Series, a good result was exactly what was needed to send us into the summer break in high spirits. It turned out even better than that at Hockenheim – I scored my second win of the season!
The guys at DAMS have worked so hard, and as soon as I hit the track at Hockenheim I knew we were carrying on the progress from the previous weekend in Hungary. Right from the word go in free practice I had a good feeling with the car, and we were third fastest on merit, very close to the top. We were just carrying on the theme from Hungary in how we were changing the car, and I felt strong on long runs as well so that was good.
Into qualifying I was positive and looking forward to seeing how the car would react, and it was a big improvement again. In the end I qualified fifth and that’s a shame, because traffic hampered us and I really believe I could have been on pole. I was really confident with the car and it was giving me a good feeling for the first time in quite a while.
We went for the prime tyre at the start of the feature race, and I had an early battle with Oliver Rowland and Norman Nato. I’d jumped Ollie off the line when he got held up by Pierre Gasly’s bad start, but then I got boxed in at Turn 2 and Ollie got me. After that I passed Norman at the Sachskurve and a few laps later passed Ollie too, so once the leaders had stopped to get off their option tyres and onto primes I was in the lead. That set my race up nicely.
For a while the pace was really strong and I was looking good, but the problem was the prime tyres weren’t lasting as long as we’d hoped. I had to come in earlier than planned, but even then I’d been losing time over the previous four or five laps and, once I’d pitted, that dropped us behind some cars I could have done without.
Obviously, there was still a good result in it, with me on the option tyres now, and I was trying to make my way cautiously up the order when I got caught in a dogfight with Norman and Antonio Giovinazzi. The annoying thing is that effectively Antonio wasn’t in the same race as us – he’d made an early stop and there’s no way he was going to keep us behind the whole race on those tyres. As a result of his defending, I got caught out and ran into the back of Norman and that ruined his race.
I got given a 10-second penalty, which is fair enough, so my fifth on the road was converted to eighth. But what I was quite happy about was that the pace was improved. Even with the penalty I stayed calm and made sure I got something out of the race, so although one mistake led to a penalty I was pleased. I managed to keep my focus and redeem myself.
Once Gasly got excluded, that moved me up to seventh and dropped me from reversed-grid pole down to second – behind Giovinazzi! I don’t think my start was particularly good but his was terrible, so I took the lead. It stayed closer than I would have liked for a while, with Ollie and Antonio staying within the one-second DRS range, but as soon as I broke Ollie from DRS I knew my pace was going to be all right, because he’d struggled with tyre degradation on Saturday. And even if Giovinazzi got past him, I was quite happy. Also, I could see on the big screen coming out of the hairpin that they were in a massive scrap.
Eventually I got to the stage where I was just looking after the tyres. The race was 28 laps and we’d managed only 23 on the prime on Saturday, so I was quite conscious that I just had to bring it home.
That’s exactly what I did, and it really lifts everyone going into the summer break before Spa. We’re much closer to where we want to be and hopefully we can carry on in the same way. I’m back up to ninth in the most open championship I’ve ever been in, so if we can carry on improving as we have done we should be in good contention.
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