|The weather today for the 25 lap Feature Race was similar to that in yesterday’s qualifying with the air and track temperatures now at 24° and 41° respectively. Following yesterday’s qualifying Jordan King was starting from 4th on the grid with Alexander Rossi back in 8th and Racing Engineering opted to start both cars on the Pirelli P Zero Orange hard compound tyres and then change to the soft compound at the mandatory pitstop.
Alexander made an incredible start and as there was contact between Rowland and Matsushita into La Source the young American took full advantage to take an amazing second place behind pole sitter Vandoorne. By lap three Alexander was still lying second, 1.7 seconds behind the Vandoorne and 2.3 seconds ahead of Sirotkin. A Safety Car incident on lap six saw all the cars that had started on the soft compound tyres, including Vandoorne, taking their mandatory pitstop and putting Alexander, who was now in the lead, at a potential disadvantage.
After several laps of Safety Car running it was decided to show the red flag on lap nine as it was taking some time to deal with the aftereffects of the accident including having to repair the damaged crash barriers and the Racing Engineering team took the opportunity to change both Alexander and Jordan to soft tyres although they would still need to take a mandatory pitstop later in the race.
After a delay of some thirty minutes the cars returned to the track behind the Safety Car for one lap and racing then resumed on lap nine with Alexander taking an immediate lead and setting a new fastest race lap of 2:01.036s and on lap thirteen he had opened out a 2.4 second gap on Evans. The Racing Engineering car was now flying, lapping almost a second a lap faster than other car on the track as Alexander fought to open out a big a gap as possible before taking his pitstop. On lap 16 Alexander dived into the pits changing to another set of soft tyres and he resumed the track in 14th position.
Once again Alexander was setting some very fast laps and by lap 18 he was in 11th and on lap nineteen he was again fastest with a lap of 2:00.946s and cars pitting ahead moved him up to 9th with just four laps to go and he soon passed Berthon into the Bus Stop Chicane for 8th. As the final cars took their pitstops Alexander was now 5th but Leal was too far ahead for him to gain any further places and as he entered the chicane on the last lap he made contact with a closing Evans and both cars left the track briefly and he lost the place taking the chequered flag in 6th.
Jordan was right behind the Rowland/Matsushita incident and he was forced to run wide off the track loosing several places and he resumed in 6th behind Lynn but he was quickly ahead of the DAMS car at Les Combes and he was now chasing Evans who, on lap four, was 1.3 seconds ahead. Jordan moved up to 4th as a result of the Safety Car induced pitstops and it allowed him to close up to the back of Evans.
As racing got underway again Jordan held onto 4th place and he was soon closing on Sirotkin, who was now in 3rd, and by lap fourteen the gap was just 0.5 seconds and on lap seventeen he pitted and the Racing Engineering team sent him on his way in 15th, also with another set of soft compound tyres. The young Briton was quickly up to speed by lap twenty he was up to 13th and a lap later he passed Malja for 12th, and he then passed Sirotkin and Stockinger to take 8th as cars ahead pitted but, with only two laps remaining, Jordan had to settle for 8th.
The Safety Car period cost both Racing Engineering cars a chance to finish higher in the race and it almost certainly cost Alexander a podium finish. However it is not all bad news as Jordan will start tomorrow’s Sprint Race for pole position on the reversed grid with Alexander starting from the second row in 3rd and both men will be looking to take the race win.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering: “We finished today’s race with both cars in the top 8, but were aiming for a much better result, in particular after the great start by Alex, which put him into second position. Unfortunately the safety car come out on lap 5 and compromised both our drivers’ races as we opted to start on prime tyres. The damage was done, so from there on it was about minimising the damage. We opted for option-option on both cars during the red flag period, allowing our drivers to fight as much as possible during the second part of the race. Alexa and Jordan did a good job fighting their way through the field and back into the points, which allows them to start from 1st and 3rd position in tomorrow’s sprint race.”
Jordan King: "I lost a bit with the accident at the start as I had to go all the way to the outside. I then had a good couple of laps where I overtook Pic and Lynn. Then I think my speed was good up until the safety car. Unfortunately, the safety car hampered our strategy, so we opted for option-option after the restart. I was definitely faster than Sirotkin, but damaged my tyres quite quickly being behind him. When I came out after my pit stop, I had some clean air which I managed to use to close up on Sirotkin after his pit stop and overtook him at turn 7. Then I was told to continue pushing to make the top 8, which I managed by passing Stockinger. I start from pole tomorrow, so it’s a great opportunity to score some good points.”
Alexander Rossi:: “The start was very good. I got off the line very well and went on the inside avoiding the mess to exit corner 1 in second position. Vandoorne ahead of me on options went off very quickly, so I was focusing on the other prime starters behind me. The pace on primes was very good compared to others, but then the worst thing that can happen when you are on a prime-option-strategy occurred as the safety car came out which allowed option-starters to get a free pit stop. Then the race was red flagged, and this opened the strategy book a little bit. We chose to put options on to try open a gap as quickly as we could on Vandoorne before we had to take our mandatory pit stop. We then put on another set of options to try and come back through the field to minimise the damage from not benefitting from a free pit stop. We were in P5 on the last lap and fighting until the last corner where Evans managed to sneak by, so we came home in P6. Starting 3rd tomorrow we know we have the pace and capability to win.”