GP2 Has Marina review
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was my final appearance in the GP2 Series, and what a great way to bow out. I won the last race of the season, pretty much untroubled at the front, and was delighted to finish on a high note after two years with the DAMS team.
My weekend started well, with second fastest in free practice. But although we were second I don’t think we felt that would be achievable in the qualifying session. I felt we weren’t quite as strong as the lap times suggested, and that proved to be the case.
It was a scrappy qualifying session in terms of traffic. Also, I don’t think I quite maximised the session, even if I wasn’t far away from the maximum. It was a struggle to get front-end grip into the super-soft tyre, and there wasn’t a lot left in the car beyond what I managed, which gave me ninth place on the grid.
For the feature race we went for a long run on the medium ‘prime’ tyre before switching to the super-softs. That meant that after those who’d started on super-softs went into the pits I was up into second place, albeit a long way behind Nobuharu Matsushita. I lacked a bit of pace compared to Matsushita, and also we had a dodgy pit stop that possibly cost me sixth place. The right-front wheel went on, but the nut flew out of the wheelgun, and that scuppered our chances. But to be fair to DAMS, all year their pit stops have been mega, mega fast and overall it was our pace that let us down most.
That meant I finished eighth, which gave me reversed-grid pole position for Sunday. That’s never what you aim for, but when you’re in that situation you just make the most of it. I was quite nervous because I was on the medium tyres, but the guys had made a massive improvement on the balance of the car overnight and our pace was much better.
I knew Sergey Sirotkin had got up to second place and I thought for a long time that he was going to be on my case, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the gap opening. I had to make sure I kept pushing hard, because with that tyre you have to keep it hot to keep it in the operating window. If you stop pushing, they lose temperature and you can’t switch them on anymore.
So it was a brilliant sendoff after working for two years with the DAMS guys in GP2, and my third win of the year also boosted me nicely up the championship table to sixth place. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending really. Also, I was so happy to see my friend Pierre Gasly, my DAMS team-mate from 2015, win the championship. He’s been the dominant driver and deserves it. Hats off to him, and I’m so glad to have been there when he did it.
I’d also like to say thankyou to the folks from my sponsor Terra Firma who were here this weekend supporting me. I hope I gave them something to cheer about, and I’m sure that with the way the Formula 1 finale panned out they had an exciting time!
That’s it for now. It’s been an exciting two years with DAMS and I’d like to say thanks for everything they’ve done, before looking ahead to 2017…
GP2 Yas Marina preview
The final round of the GP2 Series season is coming up for me and the DAMS team this weekend, supporting the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit. I’m here already, just taking a quick opportunity to chill out and write this blog. I only had a 45-minute flight to get here so I’ve been here a couple of days – that’s because I came straight from Bahrain, where I was racing in the last round of the World Endurance Championship.
It’s been several weeks since the most recent GP2 round in Malaysia, but I’ve filled that time racing in the WEC, first at Fuji in Japan, then Shanghai in China, and finally Bahrain. I was racing in the LMP2 class with the Manor team, and it’s been really good. I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s so different to GP2.
The LMP2 class is the one behind the super-fast factory LMP1 class. One of the rules of LMP2 is that each car has to have a ‘silver’-rated driver, which is usually either an amateur or a young guy who hasn’t yet proved himself at an international level. Because those of us who you might call professionals are so evenly matched, that means the result is heavily down to the silver. So as a ‘platinum’ driver, my focus has been on doing the best job I can individually. I’ve been really happy with what I’ve done, and hopefully it will lead to some good things for the future. We’ll see what that brings.
Back to GP2, and you may be surprised to hear that, even though I’ve been concentrating on WEC, I’ve somehow managed to squeeze in a day of preparation for Abu Dhabi at the DAMS base in Le Mans. It’s been a long time since Malaysia so it was important we got this done, and I’m encouraged by what we learned at DAMS. I’m coming into the weekend keeping an open mind and I’m just going to try to do my best and have a good final weekend in GP2.
Last year we were very fast. So many times last year the pace was good but we didn’t get good results. If you remember, in Abu Dhabi I was in the leading group but my tyres were finished, and the virtual safety car was called, preventing me from coming into the pits. I managed to get back up the order to finish eighth, which put me on pole for the reversed-grid race. I took the lead at the start of that, and was looking really good for the win, when there was a massive pile-up that took so long to clear that they had to abandon the race…
So my main concentration this weekend is on being fast and getting as close to the pace as we can. Yas Marina is a difficult circuit to overtake on, so qualifying is crucial – it doesn’t lend itself to the most exciting races but it is cool to come here. We do qualifying and the feature race in the evening under the floodlights, which is a nice touch. That makes Abu Dhabi not only a special place to come to but a very nice place to race.
We’re running the medium tyre for the prime and the super-soft for the option. That’s a big split and only really possible because we’ll be doing our super-soft stuff in the cooler evenings. That tyre degrades very quickly even in the evening, as we found out last year, and even making it to six laps, the earliest you can come in for a pit stop, is a challenge in itself. If we had the feature race in the usual afternoon slot, the super-softs would be like spreading butter on the track! So it definitely adds a spicy element to the race.
I just hope that works to my advantage this weekend rather than against me as it did last year. We’ve had a disappointing season at DAMS, and I’m ninth in the points, but some good results would leave me with an outside shot at a top-five position. I’ll be going all-out for a great end to the year and to sign off in style.
2017-03 Sebring Review
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
2016-07 Silverstone F1 Test
2016-07 Silverstone Review
2016-07 Silverstone Preview
2016-07 Red Bull Ring Review
2016-06 GP2 Baku Review
2016-06 GP2 Baku Preview
2016-05 Monte Carlo Review
2016-05 Monte Carlo Preview
2016-05 F1 Testing
2016-05 Barcelona GP2 Review
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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