British racer Jordan King took a healthy haul of points in the latest round of the Formula 1 World Championship-supporting GP2 Series in Belgium, thanks to a strong runner-up spot in the opening race of the weekend.
The 22-year-old qualified fifth for Racing Engineering on his return to the majestic Spa-Francorchamps rollercoaster in the Ardennes and, with perfectly executed strategy to match his searing pace in the 25-lap pitstop race on Saturday, he collected 18 points to move up to sixth in the drivers’ championship standings – ahead of team-mate Norman Nato.
“It was a really positive result, and great for my championship momentum,” admits the Manor F1 development driver.
“Practice and qualifying had been satisfying, too. I was fourth quickest in practice, just four-tenths of a second adrift of the ultimate pace on such a long and demanding lap, so my confidence was high ahead of the all-important scrap for grid positions.”
King was third quickest on his first flying lap in the opening qualifying run, which certainly ratified his post-practice confidence.
“That was good!” he says. “I was happy with the balance of the car and to do a time that good straight away was a big boost. We slightly messed up the timing of our second-session attack – on another set of tyres – and I hit traffic, but, fortunately, only two people improved so I ended up fifth quickest. There was more to come, I was sure, so I was really looking forward to the race.”
For Saturday afternoon’s Feature race, in which drivers must make a compulsory pitstop to switch to a different compound of tyre, things went according to plan for King.
“It was the first time this year that the team and I got everything right,” he admits. “I made a great start, moving up to P4 early on and challenging for P3. We made the call to pit early as I started on the Option [softer, faster, less durable] tyres. It was a perfect stop and switch to the Prime [harder, slower but more durable] tyres and I got my head down. In fact my outlap and first timed lap were really quick; so much so that I jumped race leader [Pierre] Gasly.”
King didn’t quite have the pace to keep the Frenchman behind him, but hung on to take a superb second place and snare those crucial 18 points.
With the top-eight finishers from the Feature race reversed for Sunday morning’s 18-lap Sprint race, King found himself seventh on the grid.
“The Sprint race was all about scoring as many points as possible,” he says. I finished where I started, in seventh, to make it a 20-point weekend, which is the sort of tally I need to advance up the leaderboard.”
Unfortunately, King was one of seven drivers to have a 10-second time penalty added to their final race time following their use of the drag-reduction system too early in the race. The rules stipulate that the system may be used after two racing laps, but seven drivers used it after just one tour. The penalty dropped King out of the points to 12th place.
“It was a system error,” says King. “Seven drivers got a green light on the dash so went for it – just like racing drivers are supposed to. It’s one of those things. I wasn’t alone and am not taking it personally. In hindsight I shouldn’t have believed the light, but hindsight’s a wonderful thing!
“All in all, it was a very positive weekend and we’re heading in the right direction, with another classic – at the fabled Monza – to look forward to this weekend.”
The next round of the GP2 Series takes place at Monza in Italy on September 3-4