Alexander Rossi leaves the sixth round of competition in the 2015 GP2 Series third in the driver rankings after a very difficult weekend at the Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary.
Friday's practice and qualifying session were met with typically sunny and hot conditions with air and track temperatures of 29C and 49C respectively. For practice, Alexander was one of the first out of pit lane and with the knowledge that overtaking is particularly difficult at the Hungaroring circuit, the emphasis was placed on a good set up for qualifying and race grid position.
Alexander immediately set a lap of 1:30.986s to sit in fourth before improving his time to a 1:29.971s. All cars ran on the Pirelli P Zero White medium compound tyres and after putting up his best time, Alexander pitted for a few set up changes. As the session continued he was unable to improve his time, ending practice in 11th place.
The thirty minute qualifying session took place in almost identical conditions to those in practice and Alexander lead the cars out on track with all the drivers now using the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft compound tyres. The American went fastest on his first flying lap with a time of 1:29.497s, setting the pace for the rest of the field. Alexander then improved to 1:29.023s on his fifth lap and as the session approached the twelve minute mark most of the cars returned to the pits for final adjustments and a new set of soft compound tyres. With nine minutes still to go Alexander returned to the track and although he was able to reduce his lap time to 1:28.807s he had to settle for 11th position and a very similar gap to P1 as found in free practice.
The temperature rose for the 37 lap Feature Race with air and track temperatures at 32° and 48° respectively. The Racing Engineering team went for different tyre strategies for the two drivers, with Alexander starting on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft compound (option) and a further back start position.
Alexander made a clean start and was soon up to 10th and chasing down Haryanto and his teammate Jordan King. On lap seven he pitted for his mandatory stop, and switched to the Pirelli P Zero White medium soft compound tyres. Alexander resumed in 21st place and by lap twelve was up to 14th as the other cars took their mandatory stops. He was now chasing Haryanto who was just under two seconds ahead and for the next ten laps, Alexander kept the gap to Haryanto steady, while trying to take care of the tyres on this high degradation circuit.
As the remaining cars took their pitstops Alexander moved up to 4th position, but with ten laps remaining Alexander was struggling with heavy tyre wear. As the race entered its closing laps Alexander was defending his position to much quicker cars behind. The first to pass him was Gasly who had the advantage of soft option tyres and DRS. On lap thirty one he released his position to the DAMS driver dropping to 5th and by lap 33 Alexander’s tyres were beyond useful with lap times tumbling further, seeing him finish in a frustrating 12th place.
Sunday's 28 lap Sprint Race was met with cooler conditions in the morning with air and track temperatures of 19° and 32° and a gusty wind to contend with. All cars started on the Pirelli P Zero White medium compound tyres and Alexander had a good start, avoiding a stalled car in front of him. He was up to 10th for a short period however, as found throughout the weekend, he was not comfortable with the car balance. Alexander was unable to keep pace with the top 8 cars, but held his own with the middle pack until lap 19 when he dropped to 13th as Pic passed him. With ten laps remaining the Racing Engineering driver was now involved in a similar situation as the feature race and his focus was on defending his position. Despite some excellent defensive driving moves on Berthon and Stanaway, he dropped to 14th and on lap twenty pitted for another set of tyres, resuming the race in 23rd position and taking the chequered flag in 19th.
The GP2 teams will now take a summer break before returning to racing at Spa in Belgium in one month’s time.
Alexander Rossi: "It was a very frustrating weekend. We simply couldn't find any balance in the car that worked on the prime or option tyres. We did not have pace to fight for the front, but we managed some great battles, however this only increased the tyre degradation because we had to defend positions, and in the end really hurt our results.
"We've been on excellent form before this weekend, so we'll have to take as much as possible from Hungary and come back stronger in Spa. It's one of my favourite circuits, having won there in the past. So we’ll have no excuses for not being at the sharp end of the grid where this team belongs."
Alfonso de Orléans-Borbón, Team Principal: “Hungary was a weekend to forget. Even though everyone worked really hard, the car was not there. On top of that, the strategy for Saturday's race did not work, which then affected race on Sunday. We are putting this behind us and looking forward to Spa, where Racing Engineering and Alex have always been strong."