GP2 Sepang Preview
It’s something new for most of us this weekend, with the first visit of the GP2 Series since 2013 to Sepang for the Malaysian Grand Prix support races. That means it’s mostly just the veterans of the series who have been there, and for the rest of us we get to drive what looks like a great track for the first time.
I arrived in Malaysia on Sunday evening, just to get used to the time zone and the different climate, because it’s very humid here. Yesterday, on Tuesday, I went into nearby Kuala Lumpur with my trainer Matt Tait and a few others for a bit of a look around. And obviously I’ve been training hard each day, getting ready for what could be a very taxing couple of races.
It’s not often I get to drive a new circuit these days so it’s all the more exciting when I do. I’ve done quite a lot of preparation and driven it in the simulator, not only at the base of my DAMS GP2 team but also at the Williams Formula 1 factory. It looks really nice – especially now I’ve just done a track walk and actually seen it for real!
Obviously the GP2 teams have data from their previous visits, but the track has been resurfaced this year and a lot of the corners have been reprofiled. So it’s like it’s a completely different circuit, with different cambers and different gradients. So hopefully that makes it a clean slate for all of us, even against those who have been here before.
I went down to the DAMS base in Le Mans last week for some more preparation. It’s almost a month now since our previous race weekend at Monza but in the time since then we’ve all been trying to do as much work as possible, going into every detail to try and learn as much as we can. Our pace wasn’t bad by the end of the European races although we were still lacking a little bit compared to the absolute fastest teams. But we’re not giving up and I’m confident of going out to get some good results in the last two race weekends of the GP2 season, and build on the two wins I’ve had so far this year.
Pirelli have made a pretty conservative choice of tyres for this weekend, with the hard compound as our prime tyre and the medium as our option, but that’s exactly the right strategy from them. The temperatures are going to be really high and there’s a lot of degradation on this track, so with the harder tyres hopefully that will allow us to race more aggressively.
We’ve also got a slightly different timetable this weekend. Free practice takes place on Thursday before qualifying on Friday, so it will be nice to have more time to analyse what we find out from free practice and sleep on it before we head into the serious stuff. Having said that, it’s only half an hour of free practice this time instead of 45 minutes, so we’re going to have to be on it straight away, learning as much as we can!
I’ve got to be happy with finishing the Italian Grand Prix round of the GP2 Series at Monza with a fifth place in the sprint race, especially as I started the feature race from the pit lane after hitting problems on the way to the grid. That has to count as a decent recovery.
Again, our form was a little bit disappointing in free practice and qualifying on Friday. Right from the start, the balance wasn’t where we wanted it to be and we didn’t have qualifying pace in the car. We just couldn’t get the tyres switched on as we would like, and I didn’t have the same confidence as I did last year at Monza.
I can get a good lap out of the car straight away, and after the first quick lap on the first set of tyres in qualifying I was third. But then other people improved quite a bit and I only got another two tenths out of it, which wasn’t enough. I did improve on my second set – through the Ascari chicane and the Parabolica I nailed it quite nicely and found a bit of pace, but it wasn’t enough at the right time. That put me sixth on the grid – not a disaster but not quite where the DAMS team and I want to be.
When we do our laps to the grid we always try practice starts, and this is where my weekend unraveled before the feature race. I hit a slight issue – it was a nothing fault really, but with bad consequences. It was a real shame because it hampered our race, but there was nothing we could do about it.
Quite often when quicker cars start the race from lower down the order the strategy is to go for the prime tyre, to run long and make a late switch to the option. We could have switched once it became clear I’d be starting from the pits, but we thought that the option-prime strategy would still be the faster one. In a normal race it would have been, and I firmly believe I should have had a top-eight finish to put me right in the mix for the reversed-grid race, but then we had a safety-car fiasco, and you can never plan for that. I’d been running right behind Antonio Giovinazzi when I made my stop – he effectively got a free pit stop under the safety car and won the race…
I finished 12th, which was frustrating, but from there I made a nice clean start to the sprint race, jumped Artem Markelov and got up to seventh on the first lap when some drivers fell off. Because of those incidents we had a virtual safety car, where I lost quite a bit of ground, and we found out why afterwards because Markelov was penalised after the race for going too fast under the VSC!
That put him right on my tail and he got past me after a nice battle, before he caught the cars in front. I followed him up to the bunch, and I was running eighth but not far off third as I caught Nobuharu Matsushita. Because we were running higher downforce it was difficult to get past him, especially as he was also using DRS because he was close behind Markelov. But then my chance came on the last lap…
Markelov got into a fight with Jordan King, and that allowed Matsushita and I right into their slipstream. It got pretty dicey into Parabolica – we were three-wide – and Matsushita tried to pass Markelov, but as he ran wide I got the switchback on him. It was a classic Monza slipstream finish and I beat Matsushita across the line by a hundredth of a second – just why I love racing there! And with penalties for Markelov and Gustav Malja, I was promoted to fifth.
So that was a result I couldn’t have expected when I was sitting in the pit lane before the race on Saturday, but it is a shame we had that problem, because our car was performing really well in race trim. It could have been much better.
Alex Lynn - GP2 Monza Preview
For everyone involved on the Formula 1 package, September means Monza, so you can understand why the DAMS team and I are so excited about the coming GP2 Series round supporting the Italian Grand Prix.
I love Italy and I really love Monza, so I’m hugely looking forward to this weekend. It’s a track you just can’t wait to drive, with the super-high-speed straights, challenging fast corners and absolutely amazing racing.
I first drove at Monza in my Formula 3 days and it always seemed to rain, which was a shame because that put a dampener on the chances of any slipstreaming racing. But last year in GP2 we had a proper Monza classic, although it finished in rather unfortunate circumstances for my DAMS team. If you remember, Pierre Gasly was my team-mate last year and he could have won, and then I could have won too but I ended up on top of Sergey Sirotkin! It certainly wasn’t what we wanted when in hindsight the team could have had a one-two.
So I’m particularly looking forward to putting it down on the track from tomorrow onwards. After Spa last weekend, I had one night at home before I went straight to the DAMS factory in Le Mans where we began preparation for this weekend. We’ve got quite a big break coming up after Monza so it’s important to go into that break with a decent result, and we’ve been working really hard for it.
We had a good Spa, with a podium in the feature race, and this weekend we’re coming to Monza with a softer tyre combination than we’ve had in Italy in the past. We’ve been very good on managing our tyre degradation recently, so you could say that using the medium Pirelli as our prime tyre and the soft as our option may play into our hands. But to be fair there’s not a lot in it between the medium and the hard, which is what we used in 2015. The degradation is usually quite low at Monza, which is just one more thing that helps us have flat-out races, and I’m anticipating the same again.
Of course, this is the last European round of the season before we head off to our first Malaysian GP support round at Sepang and then the traditional finale in Abu Dhabi. The season is drawing towards a close and to be fair it hasn’t really gone the way we wanted, although I’ve had two race wins. I’ve got to be honest – I haven’t looked at the championship points for a long time. Now it’s just a question of doing what we can, turning up and shooting for the podium as much as possible. We’ll fight on as always.
That’s it for now. I’m just about to go out on the track walk with my team-mate Nicholas Latifi and the engineers. I’m pretty confident that will represent the start of a good weekend!
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2017-03 Season Preview
2016-11 GP2 Yas Marina Review
2016-11 GP2 Yas Marina Preview
2016-10 GP2 Sepang Review
2016-09 GP2 Sepang Preview
2016-09 GP2 Monza Review
2016-09 GP2 Monza Preview
2016-08 GP2 Spa Review
2016-08 GP2 Spa Preview
2016-07 GP2 Hockenheim Review
2016-07 GP2 Hockenheim Preview
2016-07 GP2 Hungaroring Review
2016-07 GP2 Hungaroring Preview
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2016-07 Silverstone Review
2016-07 Silverstone Preview
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2016-05 Monte Carlo Review
2016-05 Monte Carlo Preview
2016-05 F1 Testing
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2016-05 Barcelona Preview
2016-05 Williams Testing
2016-03 Jerez Testing Report
2016-03 Pre-season Report
2016-02 Williams Announcement
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