Hungaroring Review: My First Win Of The Season!

My first win of the season, my second pole position, I’ve massively cut the gap to the championship lead and I’ve got momentum going into the last four rounds. So you could say that was a pretty good weekend for me at the Hungaroring!

We had a test there in June, and we were quite comfortable with our set-up coming away from that. I was quick, and so were my ART Grand Prix team-mates George Russell, Nirei Fukuzumi and Anthoine Hubert, so we knew it would be quite close. We had a good baseline to work from.

That pace was confirmed in free practice on Friday, although I needed a few small tweaks going into qualifying. On the first of our two sets each of tyres in qualifying, it was an ART 1-2-3-4, but I was fourth of that top four, so I needed another small change to the car. That paid off on the second run, where I set the pole position on the first of what should have been two hot laps.

With the heat you get in Hungary, normally it’s the first push lap that gives you the time. You can do it on the second, but the tyres are usually going off and also you know there’s a good chance of a red flag. I did my banker lap and really nailed it, and then the second was really good, but the tyres probably would have fallen away in the final sector. Besides, sure enough, there was a red flag, so that was pole in the bag.

It’s usually very difficult to overtake at the Hungaroring, so it’s one of the most important places to be on pole. George was second on the grid, but before the race he unfortunately had exactly the same failure on his car that put me out of the opening race of the season at Barcelona – talk about things evening out!

Nirei got a slightly better start off the line but I was still pretty comfortable for the first 100 metres, but it’s such a long run to Turn 1 and there was a headwind, so he got a tow. I knew if I stuck to the inside I was pretty safe and I did that. Then he had another go at Turn 2 but after that there wasn’t any problem.

We had a safety car and that was tough to manage, but my restart was good and I pretty quickly moved out of DRS range of Nirei. It was a case of trying to strike a balance between keeping out of that one-second margin, and looking after the tyres. There was a virtual safety car and Nirei closed to within half a second, but I instantly pulled the gap again. The pace was good when I needed it.

Because I hadn’t taken too much out of the tyres, I was able to have a go at pushing late in the race and I secured fastest lap with two to go. So that was a perfect score of 31 points: 25 for the win; four for pole, two for fastest lap.

With the reversed grids we have in GP3, that win put me eighth for the start of Sunday’s race. And it was lot more entertaining than driving on my own at the front, that’s for sure! I got up to sixth at the start, and then I passed Anthoine around the outside of Turn 1 for fifth.

Next in my sights was Dorian Boccolacci. I managed to get a run going into Turn 4 and went to the outside, but that’s the fastest corner on the track and I just hesitated before I turned in, knowing Dorian didn’t have much to lose championship-wise. I completed the pass, but I’d put all four wheels over the kerb so, just to be on the safe side, I gave him the place back.

Unfortunately I’d cut my right-rear tyre as I went over the kerb, but I hadn’t noticed anything yet. I got another run on Boccolacci into Turn 1, but as I did that there was a lot of movement from the rear and I ran wide again, and now I knew something wasn’t right. That cost me two places and now George attacked me, and just at the moment he attacked the tyre let go and we collided. That was unfortunate for both of us, but it’s just one of those things.

Still, it’s been a great weekend for me. I’m now just nine points behind George and it’s funny, but although this is my first win of 2017 I don’t regard it as a ‘breakthrough’, because I know it should have come a long time ago. It’s what we always expected, and now I’m expecting the next!