An unlucky weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Austria leaves Alexander Rossi just short of claiming yet more podiums, however maintaining his second place position in the battle for the GP2 Series driver title. With brake issues and early contact compromising both the Feature and Sprint races, Alexander showcased his talent and determination by fighting back up the grid to bring home more valuable points for him and the team.
The first session of the weekend at the Red Bull Ring started slowly, with Alexander returning to the pits following his installation lap after discovering a shifting problem. However once he rejoined the practice session, he immediately showcased the pace potential of the car, setting a time of 1:15.942s. Within the final laps of the session, and after pitting for fresh tyres and a few adjustments to the car, Alexander moved up to 4th fastest with a time of 1:15.272s.
Qualifying took place later that afternoon and under sunnier conditions, with air and track temperatures of 17C and 28C respectively. Alexander was immediately on the pace, setting the 5th fastest time with a lap of 1:15.476s, before improving to 1:15.323s. However brake problems hampered his pace throughout the session, finishing qualifying in P12 with a time of 1:14.881s.
Saturday's Feature Race was set against a cool and cloudy backdrop, with air and track temperatures of 14C and 29C respectively, and the threat of rain in the air. Alexander lined up P12 on the grid on the P Zero Red supersoft compound tyres and knew there was everything to play for in this race. Following a fantastic start, Alexander gained several places and finished the first lap in P8, before the Virtual Safety Car was deployed due to another incident. Once racing resumed Alexander was soon progressing up the field, cleanly and carefully overtaking the rest of the pack to move up to 5th place. On lap eight Alexander made his mandatory pitstop, switching to the P Zero White medium tyres and returning to the track in P19, however he was 4th out of the cars that had pitted. After setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 12, with a time of 1:17.333s, he took the battle to the three drivers ahead who were fighting for the lead; Vandoorne, Sirotkin and Matsushita. On lap 17 another fastest lap of 1:16.898s saw him close the gap to just 0.4seconds to Matsushita, before he managed to pass the Japanese driver with a fantastic manoeuvre to run 3rd in the race and turned his focus to chasing down P2. In the final six laps Alexander had closed the gap once more to be just two seconds behind Sirotkin and was looking in a strong position to take another podium. However, late in the race the braking issues returned and Alexander dropped back, finishing the race in a disappointing 6th place, but bringing home valuable points for the rankings board.
With the reverse grid order in play for Sunday's Sprint Race, Alexander lined up in P3 with hopes of being back on the top step of the podium. A brilliant start saw him challenge for the lead, however going into the first corner he was clipped from behind, forcing him wide off track in turn 1. Alexander managed to keep the car together and rejoined the track in 13th position. As the race continued, Alexander once more showed his skill and determination, fighting his way back up the grid to finish in 8 place, collecting 1 additional valuable point.
Alexander maintains his second place in the driver rankings, and will look to close the gap to Vandoorne in the next round of racing in Silverstone, UK, from the 3rd - 5th July.
Alexander Rossi: "It's been an unfortunate weekend for me. Coming into Austria, we knew we’d be strong and Racing Engineering has proven they have a strong race car at the Red Bull Ring. Overall the car balance was really good, but we were just troubled with some anomalous mechanical problems and it took a few sessions to get the sorted, but by then we were on the back foot. We had the pace for a double podium and win in the sprint race. We move on as a team collectively and will return with even more determination in Silverstone. I did enjoy the overtaking in Austria, but I’m really hungry for the win now and all our energy is geared to achieving that as soon as possible."
Alfonso de Orléans Borbon, Racing Engineering: "Although the weekend did not start in the best of ways, what always amazes me about Alex is that he never gives up. He fought back through the field in the first race to a podium position, but dropped back to 6th due to technical gremlins. While in the second race, he got pushed off the track, dropped to the back and fought his way back to 8th. Only a true champion has the capacities to fight back like he does. The season so far has been positive, but we need the strong potential to turn into better results. Now on to Silverstone."