Second place at Spa keeps me in the battle for the title

28/08/2017 Posted in: Racing, GP3

I have to be happy with another podium finish after taking second place in the latest GP3 Series round at Spa from fourth on the grid, especially as it keeps me second in the championship and still in the battle for the title.

The Belgian Grand Prix weekend is a great way to resume racing after the summer break, because everyone loves Spa. I’d spent the weeks since the Hungaroring at the Renault Sport Academy training camp in the south of France, and a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. So for Spa everything was like a reset, but I knew the ART Grand Prix team and I would have good pace.

In free practice we were on a different strategy. We decided to save our new tyres and this accounted for our relatively low positions. Although I was 13th I was quickest of the ART drivers, so naturally I was pretty pleased with that!

Qualifying was wet, in classic Spa fashion. Normally I enjoy the wet, and on the first set of tyres I was P2, but feeling comfortable and knowing I had a few things I could improve. However, with the second set for some reason I acquired oversteer, unlike my teammates, and ended the session P4 – not a disaster, but I had been aiming for pole.

Spa is one of those places where it’s relatively easy to overtake, and some would say it’s actually beneficial to exit Eau Rouge on the first lap in second or third place. I had a good start, and had to go onto the grass to pass Arjun Maini for third into the La Source hairpin, but got it done.

I then set about chasing my team-mates when a virtual safety car was called, resulting in Nirei Fukuzumi, George Russell and I running closely together. George passed Nirei after the VSC, and I got past Nirei around the outside at Les Combes. That was fun! However, pushing hard early on had hurt the rear tyres, and Nirei caught me towards the final laps. He passed me at the Bus Stop chicane but I got him straight back on the Kemmel Straight and we had a great fight in these last four or five laps to take second place.

Nirei is always hard to beat but you can trust him and we had a good battle. Our fight let George cruise away and that was frustrating, but given the circumstances, P2 was the best we could have done.

For the second race the top eight are reversed and so I was seventh on the grid. I had a great start, passed Nirei and then took Maini into Eau Rouge so I was already up to P5.

I then set about lining up Dorian Boccolacci for a pass. I got a decent run up the straight but as I drew alongside I started to lose momentum as he was running less rear wing for straight-line speed. My rear wheel was next to his front wing, and as we got to the braking zone I misjudged – I thought I was ahead but he was still there and we made contact. That punctured my tyre and ruined his race too, so apologies to him.

I am really disappointed as at that point George was several places behind and came through to second, so congratulations to him, but I really feel my mistake cost me a win with our pace. However, we have to move on, and at Monza next weekend I’ll be looking for wins as usual.