Hilmer Motorsport continue to show signs of improvement as the GP2 Series event at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium saw Daniel Abt match his best result of the season with fifth place in the Sprint race. Team-mate Jon Lancaster was less fortunate, stalling on the grid ahead of the Feature race and then retiring from the Sprint with an engine issue.
After a disappointing qualifying session where Abt qualified down in eighteenth, the young German was able to climb up the field in the Feature race, and overtook the Arden International of Andre Negrao on the penultimate lap to take eighth and reverse grid pole. He was not able to maintain the lead in the Sprint race, but was able to keep championship leader Jolyon Palmer under pressure to finish fifth.
“It was a really crazy main race,” said Abt. “Heavy rain, an abort of the race in between – a lot more in terms of turbulences is not possible. That’s why the eighth place in the end carries even more weight.
“I was very happy to start from my first Pole Position in GP2 on Sunday. Our pace was very good and I’d incredibly liked clinching a podium for the team. In the next three races we are going to give everything to make this happen. I am sure: the champagne shower will follow shortly.”
Team-mate Lancaster endured a tough weekend, qualifying down in twenty-third and finishing nineteenth in the Feature race after stalling on the grid that meant he started from the pit lane. He was then forced to retire in the Sprint race when his engine overheated.
“It was a difficult weekend for me in Spa and I was hoping for more,” said Lancaster. “Before the formation lap on Saturday I stalled the engine unfortunately and I had to be pushed back to the pit lane from where I had to start afterwards. Later in the race, I was fighting for positions with other drivers and my front wing was damaged. As a consequence the balance of the car was affected and the driving was very difficult.
“On Sunday, the engine of my car overheated in the beginning of the race. I tried to get back to the pit lane but I had to stop the car on track. I will try to forget the weekend and I hope that we will do better in Monza.”
Team Principal Franz Hilmer gave praise to Abt’s weekend in Belgium, insisting that the German ranks amongst the best drivers in the field. He was disappointed that Jolyon Palmer was not forced to concede a position in the Sprint race after apparently gaining an advantage by running off the track, but was happy Abt was able to keep the pressure on the GP2 Series championship leader throughout the race.
“It was a crazy weekend in Spa where we started from Pole Position in GP2 for the very first time,” said Hilmer. “Daniel drove a fantastic race on Saturday after it had to be aborted due to the heavy rain. He had spectacular overtakings and the tension was very high until he passed Negrao on the last lap and finished in eighth position.
“The eighth place in the main race in GP2 is very important because the drivers classified in the Top 8 on Saturday will start in reverse grid order on Sunday. So Daniel clinched his and also Hilmer Motorsport’s first Pole Position.
“Unfortunately, he lost the first place at the start to Nasr and after a fight with the Championship leader Palmer he dropped back to fourth position. Palmer cut the chicane and gained an advantage. According to the regulations he had to drop back and let Daniel overtake him again, but he didn’t do this. We don’t understand why the race stewards didn’t penalize Palmer.
“Daniel was able to put pressure on Palmer and to keep up with the pace of the race leaders easily. It is a shame that he barely missed the podium but nevertheless we showed once again that the team and Daniel rank among the best in the field.
“We are very sorry for Jon that he couldn’t finish the race on Sunday. Unfortunately, the engine of his car overheated and Jon had to stop on track. Nevertheless, we are happy about our positive development and our progress. We are very confident that we are well positioned for the next races and that we will race in the front in Monza again.”