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Aug 25, 2014 - 06:54 AM
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Belgium Review: Alex Back To Winning Ways After Some Spa Treatment
Posted by: newsla on Aug 25, 2014 - 06:53 AM
GP2 News
Belgium Review: Alex Back To Winning Ways After Some Spa Treatment

It feels so good to get another win in the GP3 Series with the Carlin team, especially after such an exciting race in challenging conditions on such a great circuit as Spa. I had a hard fight with Richie Stanaway all the way – he’s my main title rival and the important thing is that I’ve pulled out one more point on him after our weekend in Belgium.


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The fact that this was for the reversed-grid race shows what a weird weekend it was. Typically for Spa, the weather played a massive part in how things went. We had a really positive free practice – it rained halfway through before anyone got time to put a lap in on new tyres, but the car felt really good and I knew we’d be in the fight for pole.

Then it was wet for qualifying on Saturday morning. We just didn’t hook it up how we wanted and didn’t quite get the balance we needed. There are so many variables, including tyre pressures, and it’s a case of who the conditions come to. In my case, I didn’t even improve on my second set of tyres when the circuit was drier. That shows how critical it is and, from holding pole earlier in the session, I ended up fifth on the grid.

But, thanks again to the Spa weather, that was completely irrelevant when the first race started. We had torrential rain and hail in the GP2 race, which was stopped because it was so bad and then restarted. It was horrendous, but by the time our GP3 race came around it was drying out pretty quickly. There was a bit of a stalemate on the grid among the top three in the championship – no one wanted to take a risk and we all went out on wet-weather tyres. The radar said rain was imminent, and then by the time we were on the formation lap it said there was no rain due! It didn’t help that Marvin Kirchhofer shunted on his slicks on the green-flag lap – that delayed the start and played things even further into the hands of those who were on slicks.

So we had to pit at the end of the formation lap, in common with Stanaway and quite a few others, and start from the pit-lane. It was a very good stop by the Carlin guys. It’s quite funny – I’d texted my engineer Matt Callaghan about a week ago and said ‘make sure the guys get plenty of pit-stop practice, because it’s Spa and it’s bound to rain’, and he texted back saying ‘don’t worry – we’re on the case!’.

I pulled a bit of a gap on Richie on the first lap on brand-new slicks, but then we came across some slower cars and everyone started tripping over each other. There was a great battle – I got pushed on the grass – and it ended up with Richie passing me at La Source. By the time we’d worked through the wet-tyred runners I was ninth – in the points but needing one more place to take pole for the reversed-grid race. Without doubt I would obviously have taken risks to get that position, but in the end Matheo Tuscher crashed out of the lead, promoting me to eighth – that was super-important. It’s a situation you don’t want to be in, but with the circumstances we had on the weekend we had to take what we could.

We knew Sunday’s race would be really important. I got a good start from pole but the track was damp, we were all on slicks, it was very cold and conditions were really, really difficult. Most of the circuit had only half a dry line, and as the race leader I was constantly having to evaluate how much grip there was while trying to build a gap to Richie. I think this weekend we really pushed each other, and the huge gap we pulled out on the rest showed how fast we were.

Richie was taking a lot out of me under braking at Les Combes on a wet track, and on one lap I went a little bit hot in there, got into a slide and lost the lead – I was gutted for all of about 10 seconds… Then he went wide at the next corner – it looked like proper hard racing on TV, with me edging him wide on the exit to retake the lead, but because it was so damp I was understeering and there was nothing else I could do to be honest!

The car was fantastic – we had really good pace and I could pull away when I needed to. I did a pretty good lap with one to go, which gave me fastest lap at the time – which is worth two more points. Then I locked up on the last lap into Les Combes and nearly went off again and Alex Fontana grabbed fastest lap – that was pretty annoying, but it was more important to bring it home and take the 15 points I had in my pocket.

We’re not comfortable in the championship by any stretch, but we’re still really fast. Next up is Monza, and I just need to concentrate on putting it on pole, winning some more – that’s what we’re here to do, and that will make winning the championship easier.

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