The eleven GP2 teams were greeted at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya with blue skies and warm weather for the opening round of the 2016 GP2 Series with air and track temperatures of 19° and 36° respectively for the morning 45 minute Free Practice session. Pirelli are supplying their P Zero Orange hard and P Zero Yellow soft tyres for this weekend.
Both of the Racing Engineering drivers were immediately on the pace with Norman Nato going 3rd on his first flying lap with a time of 1:29.874s with Jordan King just behind him in 6th with a lap of 1:30.001s. After completing eight laps and with 28 minutes of the session remaining both men returned to the Racing Engineering pits for some adjustments and then, with just over fifteen minutes of the session remaining, Norman and Jordan returned to the track but wit! h both men concentrating on their race set-up they did not improve on their earlier times.
It was a little cooler for the afternoon thirty minute Qualifying session with the track temperature down to 34° and everybody was now using the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft compound. However, just as the cars left the pitlane, it began to rain and all the drivers were immediately trying to set a quick lap in case the conditions got worse but with all the cars together on the track finding a clear space was very difficult. Jordan immediately went 5th with a lap of 1:31.725s and then Norman jumped to 4th on 1.29.585s but everybody had to be careful on the slippery track surface.
As the session reached the halfway point Norman and Jordan returned to the pits for some adjustments and a new set of s! oft tyres. Both of the Racing Engineering cars were back on track with ten minutes to go and the conditions had now improved and the lap times were falling. With five minutes remaining Norman put in a very quick lap to go fastest with a time of 1:28.271s and Jordan improved to 1:29.322s to move up to 13th.
Although Gasly went a little faster, Norman finished the session in second and will start tomorrow’s 37 lap Feature Race from the front row of the grid and must be considered a strong contender for the race win. A disappointed Jordan will be starting from the sixth row and will be fighting to move up into the points and get a good grid position for Sunday’s Sprint Race.
|Sebastien Viger, Technical Director:
“After three days of testing here in the pre-season we knew it would be tight straight from the beginning. We managed to have both drivers in the top 6 in free practice, but we knew there was a risk of rain for qualifying and it actually materialised with some drops at the beginning of the session. This led to a hectic first part of qualifying with different drivers out of sequence with some others. Unfortunately qualifying didn’t work out well for both our cars in the first stint and we had to adapt to the changing conditions. On the second set of tyres Norman managed a good lap putting him into second, but Jordan had to settle for 13th.”
“Free practice was fine as I finished in P4, but the most important thing was to properly prepare for qualifying as well as a bit for the race. Qualifying actually stated a bit hectically, we expected a bit of rain for the session, but we had some straight away. I was lucky to not get hit by Matsushita on my out lap in turn 2 when he spun in front of me. It was a difficult qualifying as there was more tension as normal as it was the first qualifying of the season and with the difficult conditions, but in the end all went well. Initially I just wanted to secure a lap just in case it would rain harder, but on the second set of tyres I did a P2 which is a good starting position for the race tomorrow.”
“I was very confident going into the session as the speed in winter and in practice was good. The session didn’t go 100% as planned due to the rain, and overall I am a bit disappointed as I know we could have been a lot quicker, if we would have changed a couple of small things. For tomorrow’s race I am very confident that we can have a strong race. It will all depend on how I play in traffic.”