Alexander comes away from the second round of the 2015 GP2 Series season third in the Driver rankings, and just three points behind Rio Haryanto who currently holds second place. A strong and consistent weekend with Racing Engineering in Spain showcased a repeat of form from the opening round of the 2015 season, with Alexander battling for the win and picking up his second podium of the year (P3) in the feature race, and bringing home yet more valuable points for the team in P4 during Sunday’s sprint race.
Friday’s practice session showed plenty of potential with Alexander setting the pace early on and lighting up the timing boards in his initial laps, before finishing the opening session of the Spanish weekend in P3 and with a best time of 1.30.767. Blue skies and the Spanish sun meant the temperatures had risen by the time the 30 minute qualifying session got underway in the afternoon, with air and track temperatures of 30C and 50C respectively.
With the cars now running the Pirelli P Zero yellow soft compound tyres, Alexander headed straight out to the track as the lights turned green, however the session was red flagged almost immediately due to Markelov’s car stopping at turn four. The stranded car was quickly removed, and as qualifying resumed Alexander went 2nd fastest on his first flying lap with a time of 1:30.154s. Despite times falling around him, and a strong second attempt, Alexander’s initial fast lap remained one of the best, and he qualified in P5 on the grid ahead of Saturday’s feature race.
An exciting feature race was set against the backdrop of more blue skies and sunny weather at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with temperatures of 24C (air) and 46C (track) giving slightly cooler conditions than in the previous day’s qualifying. A different tyre strategy meant Alexander lined up on the grid with the Pirelli P Zero orange hard compound tyres, with the other front runners opting for the soft compound tyres. After a clean start, Alexander was able to close the gap to the leaders and pull away from the cars behind. As those with soft compound tyres began to pit, Alexander moved up to second place and was less than a second behind Evans, however an issue with the DRS system which affected the whole field meant that overtaking was more of a challenge. By lap 12, Alexander was maintaining the gap to Evans at less than a second as they both pulled away from the rest of the field.
Alexander and Racing Engineering took the initiative on lap 26 and made their mandatory pit stop, switching to the soft compound tyres and forcing Evans to pit on the following lap. A fast clean lap while Evans was pitting meant that Alexander was soon ahead of the Russian Time car as the race began to close and Alexander was able to lap the rest of the field on his fresher tyres, and with DRS fixed and now accessible to all. With just seven laps to go, Alexander had caught up to Vandoorne in the lead and reduced the gap to just 3.8 seconds, putting him in position to challenge for the win, however Evans also turned up the heat on his fresh tyres to add pressure to the final stages of the race. With just one lap remaining Evans used his DRS to overtake Alexander, and so he ended the feature race in P3, with a tyre strategy that proved to be an excellent choice.
For Sunday’s reverse grid Alexander lined up in P6 with everything to play for in the sprint race. A clean start and quick opening laps meant Alexander maintained his position, and with careful tyre management in mind Alexander soon settled to close in on the leaders. A virtual safety car following an incident during the early stages allowed the field to bunch up, and Alexander made a great restart, soon gaining positions with an outstanding overtake without the use of DRS to see him take P4. With tyres degrading fast, Alexander managed to fight off challenges from behind and push for P3, however took the chequered flag in P4 bringing home yet more valuable points for both the team and his own driver rankings.
Racing Engineering now sit second in the team rankings, with Alexander just three points from second in the driver rankings. Round three will take place in Monaco from the 21st – 24th May 2015.
Alexander Rossi: “I was pleased that we were so quickly on pace during practice and qualifying – after Bahrain this was a true test for us, in European conditions, so it was extremely positive to see how strong we were and that bodes well for the rest of the rounds in Europe. For the feature race we did an excellent job with the strategy and I felt I was really able to maximise the potential of the car. In the beginning we were quite effective but it was a little tough without the DRS, because you’re very front end limited with the tyre, and when I was behind Mitch [Evans] I was staying within the one second because I was expecting the DRS to start coming into play, but it never did. I was hurt a little bit because I think our pace on primes is pretty strong, so with that we had to go for the undercut on Mitch, because it was the only thing we could do to try and get by him. That’s what we did and we played our hand, but in the end we were a bit too early. We were taking a bit of a gamble to get track position and try to hold on in the end: we were close but we were a couple of laps short, which seems to be our habit in the last few races.
“Sunday’s race was strong also, and I was happy to finish in P4 despite feeling as though I could have been challenging for the podium once more. Managing tyres was key for this race, and I feel as though we did a good job, however I’m hungry for the win now as I feel it is within reach; therefore anything less will be always be a little disappointing for me. I’m happy to give the team more points, it’s what this championship is about, but the problem this year is Stoffel [Vandoorne] keeps scoring big! We have an excellent car, a brilliant team and I know I can really maximise our potential on track, so we’ll keep being consistent on pace and performance, trying different strategies and keep working to be on that top step of the podium.”