|As was to be expected the weather at the Sakhir International Circuit, Bahrain was very hot as the cars took to the track for the 45 minute morning practice session with air and track temperatures of 35° and 53° respectively. All the cars were starting on the Pirelli P Zero White medium compound tyres and for the first time at a race weekend the cars would be using the DRS (Drag Reduction System), similar to that used on the F1 cars.
It was Racing Engineering’s new signing Alexander Rossi who was the first driver to set a fast time as, after six minutes, he set a lap time of 1:42.451s and this stood until his teammate Jordan King in his first GP2 race weekend went fractionally quicker with a lap of 1:42.441s.
As the session approached the halfway point both Alexander and Jordan returned to the pits for some setup changes as they adapted their cars to the current conditions and to fit fresh tyres. With nineteen minutes remaining both drivers returned to the track but there were no further improvements at the front of the field so the Racing Engineering pair finished the session in first and second. At the end of the session all the cars returned to the track to run some laps under the new “Virtual Safety Car” rules, introduced this year, to give the drivers some experience of the situation.
It was much cooler for qualifying as it was now night at the Sakhir circuit and the track was bathed in floodlighting with the air and track temperatures now at 25° and 31° respectively. The change in temperature coupled with the fact that the cars were now on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft compound tyres meant that the cars would need a change in set-up from the configurations used in the morning.
Alexander and Jordan immediately took to the track and Jordan immediately went 3rd fastest on his first flying lap with a 1:40.030s with Alexander just behind on 1:40.292s. Two laps later Jordan made a big improvement to 1:39.770, again for 3rd quickest, while Alexander also went faster on 1:40.119s. As the session reached the half-way point all of the cars returned to the pits for some final adjustments and a new set of soft tyres.
With nine minutes remaining the cars returned to the track with just enough time for two flying laps before the 30 minutes were up. Alexander immediately improved to 7th with a time of 1:39.932s and on his final lap he reduced this to 1:39.872s. Jordan was unable to improve on his earlier so he will start tomorrow’s 32 lap Feature Race from 6th on the third row of the grid with Alexander on the next row after finishing 8th.
The Racing Engineering drivers will be looking to score as many points as possible tomorrow in the first race of the season and both men will be aiming to finish on the podium.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering: “The 2015 season has started here in Bahrain. It was obviously a very good start with the cars in P1 and P2 in free practice, but we knew that qualifying would be a different story with a different compound and lower track temperatures as qualifying took place at night. Unfortunately, we were not as good in qualifying as we were in free practice. It’s a pity that Alex was blocked by Marciello in corner 4 as he was on a fast lap and he lost three tenths compared to his best sector 1 time. This could have put him in P3 and meant a nice qualifying result. Jordan did a good job in his first GP2 qualifying finishing in P6. With some improvement in driving and a small change on the car his second stint could have been better. Both our cars start tomorrow’s race in the top 8 and we are anticipating a difficult race due to the very hot conditions and softer compounds chosen this year compared to 2014. Now we focus on preparing for tomorrow’s race.”
Jordan King: “Practice went really well, I was quickest, so there is nothing to complain about and there was a lot more I could have improved on. I was confident going into qualifying and on the first set of new tyres I did a reasonable job and was P3. That was very encouraging and I was confident going onto my second set of tyres, I really thought I could improve or at least stay in P3. Unfortunately I made a mistake and the change we made on the car upset my rhythm a bit. We didn’t make a step forward but stayed the same, while others made a little step forward. We dropped a couple of places, but 6th isn’t bad, just a bit frustrating as I think row 2 was definitely possible but we are row 3 instead. For tomorrow’s race all is new for me, we are on medium and soft compound tomorrow while during the test we used hard and soft, so that’s going to be another barrier to climb. However for everything else I think I am as prepared for as I can be. Pit stops, pit entry all this is new for me, but I think we’ll be in a good position.”
Alexander Rossi:: “Practice was quite good for the team to be 1 and 2 but in qualifying we missed a little bit with both cars. The first run was quite difficult for me, but we made a big step forward on the second. It’s always difficult on the second run with traffic and we had a little issue with that, which costs us a little bit of time. But in general it was very close from second position to where I am and the smallest thing can make a difference. But, having said this and even though it didn’t go as we hoped, I don’t think we did the optimum of what we could have done, 8th is not horrible and we just have to make sure we have a good strategy and focus on what we need to do tonight to maximise results tomorrow.”