Arthur Pic’s chances of making a strong start to this year’s GP2 Series campaign were dashed just five laps in to Saturday’s Feature Race when the actions of another driver – who was later penalised – put paid to a likely podium and top-five qualifying position for Sunday’s second encounter.
The one silver lining to come from his non-finish and then starting 21st on the Sprint Race grid as a result was another exhibition of overtaking from the Frenchman, who cut a swathe through the field en route to 10th at the chequered flag.
Pace-wise the opening weekend had certainly promised much, with fifth in free practice followed by the fourth fastest time during Friday afternoon’s qualifying session.
Indeed, it wasn’t until Saturday that Arthur’s first GP2 outing of the season began to unravel. Starting on the softer compound tyres should have given him an advantage over the front-row pairing, but when Nobuharu Matsushita stalled directly ahead, Pic was forced to swerve around the stranded ART Grand Prix driver.
That crucial loss of momentum saw him swallowed up by the advancing pack into Turn 1 before some elbows-out racecraft helped Pic re-take fifth from Red Bull Junior, Pierre Gasly, through the following sequence of corners.
Over the next four laps Arthur shadowed Raffaele Marciello and Norman Nato, leaving him perfectly positioned to cut back underneath for third place when the pair ahead squabbled. But just a handful of corners later all three drivers’ races were run when Nato out-braked himself into Turn 8, clattered into Pic’s right-rear wheel and spun the Campos Racing driver around. Marciello was also caught up in the incident, before a fast-approaching Gasly T-boned Pic’s stricken car.
While Nato’s actions earned him a three-place grid penalty for race two, Pic could only reflect on what might have been.
“The car felt great all weekend and I’m confident that without the accident a podium was there for the taking,” he said. “There was still a long way to go in that race and a lot can happen in GP2, but practice and qualifying had both shown we had front-running pace, so to not capitalise on that is obviously very frustrating. It isn’t just the podium either: the DNF completely compromised our Sprint Race chances.
“Norman apologised afterwards but there’s no doubt I lost a lot of valuable points this weekend. The championship is so strong that we can’t afford any more of those.”
With the Feature Race’s finishing positions determining the grid order for Sunday, Pic – through no fault of his own – was forced to accept that a strong weekend was unlikely to yield any points.
But that didn’t stop the 23-year-old from giving it a go, overtaking four drivers on the opening lap before working his way through the field and up to 10th place at the finish. Although that was still two shy of the points, Pic was nevertheless pleased with the way he’d simultaneously managed Pirelli’s medium tyres in challenging conditions.
“Pirelli’s compounds were softer than last year, which made life very tricky in the warmer conditions compared with 12 months ago,” he explained. “I had the pace to be running at the front so needed to be aggressive with the way I cut through the pack while also factoring in degradation. It was therefore pleasing to still be overtaking guys at the end, even if there were no points on offer. I just did my best with what I had.”
Arthur will be hoping for better luck when the season continues at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on May 8-10.