Alexander Rossi made a strong start to the 2015 GP2 Series season with a podium in his debut race for the team in Bahrain, and plenty of valuable points in the bag towards the title. After a strong pre-season test in Bahrain just a few weeks ago, Racing Engineering were looking positive for the first race of the year, and an eventful and exciting weekend which demonstrated the already strong partnership between Alexander and the team.
Friday's practice initially focused on race strategy and longer run programs, with teams able to try out the DRS (Drag Reduction System) for the first time during a race weekend. Air and track temperatures of 35C and 53C respectively made for a challenging first session of the race weekend, however Alexander and Racing Engineering were able to immediately find performance, finishing the practice in P2.
Qualifying took place in the relatively cooler temperature of the evening, with the team hoping to capitalize on their earlier success from the morning. With a track and air temperature of 25C and 31C respectively, Alexander immediately set an early pace with a 1:40:292, putting him 4th fastest. However, as the final laps drew to a close, Alexander was able to better his time, putting in a 1:39:872 before getting caught in traffic, seeing him finish in P8 on the grid ahead of Saturday's Feature Race.
|Rossi follows Haryanto home in Race 1|
The first race saw high track temperatures of 49C and strong wind to contend with, bringing dusty conditions into the mix. Alexander lined up 8th on the grid, with the Pirelli P Zero yellow soft compound tires, and made a great start to move up to P7 by the end of the first lap. An incident in lap four brought out the safety car, and Alexander completed his mandatory pitstop, rejoining the field in 13th place. Racing began again on lap nine, and although hit from behind by Lynn, Alexander was able to fight through the field to reach 5th position by lap nineteen. The cars ahead had yet to make their compulsory pitstop, and Alexander took the lead of the race on lap twenty three. With just four laps remaining Alexander was nine seconds ahead, however his medium tires were beginning to heavily degrade, and Stoffel Vandoorne began to close the gap with his fresher, soft tires. On lap thirty, Alexander had to yield the lead to the ART car, and on the final lap had to give up second to Rio Haryanto who was also on fresh softs, settling for a hard fought podium finish in third.
Sunday brought the promise of yet more excitement as Alexander lined up 6th on the grid, following the reverse grid format for the Sprint Race. After a tricky start, which saw him drop to P11 on the first lap, Alexander was able to quickly carve his way back up through the field with some talented overtaking moves while managing the degradation of his tires. With just one lap to go, Alexander had fought back to P3 and was in a podium position once again, however was caught by Nathanael Berthon in the final DRS zone, finishing the race in P4. Although disappointing not to finish the weekend with a double podium, Alexander and Racing Engineering come away from the first round of the 2015 GP2 Series season in a strong position and with valuable points in the bag, which sees Alexander third in the driver's rankings.
Alexander Rossi: "The weekend started well with the team finishing the first practice session in P1 and P2. Qualifying was a little more tricky; we were missing a little bit from the cars, and although we were incredibly close in terms of time, getting caught in traffic meant I would start the first race from P8 on the grid.
"For Saturday, I was pleased to be on the podium for the first race of the season, especially since I was a little disappointed after our qualifying result. To get a podium is a good thing, however when you lead the race, it's quite difficult to accept finishing only third. But I believe we got the best result we could get with the strategy that we chose and ,in the end, it's a good race for the team. We were never planning on stopping so early on, but obviously had to due to the safety car, so I knew the position we were in and that we had to make the most of it. I think the hardest part of the race was when Alex (Lynn) was behind me. We were coming into the traffic and I knew I had to stay in front of him. It probably took a bit too much off the tires going around people. I’m not sure it would have made a difference for the win, but it did hurt the tires. I knew that Stoffel had clean air and I didn’t want to sit behind too much, and I could not let the gap get too big for when he stopped. It’s a very fine line. In hindsight, I should perhaps not have pushed as much, but in the heat of the moment, when you realize he’s in front, and you're stuck in traffic, you just have to go for it.
"The final sprint race was disappointing for me, we came very close to a double podium this weekend and P4 is not where I want to be, ultimately, when I'm in contention for the win. To lose a podium position on the last lap is very frustrating! However, we made a good recovery after the initial start, where we dropped a few positions, and were able to fight our way through the field strongly, so I'm pleased that we were able to manage the tires well and bring home some valuable points. I feel there is a serious amount of potential for me in this car, so I'll be looking forward to Barcelona and the second race of the season to see what we can do."