American driver Alexander Rossi came into the opening round of the 2014 GP2 season in high spirits having seen his EQ8 Caterham Racing team impress in pre-season testing. However he left Bahrain wondering just what went wrong. From the qualifying session under the lights on Friday, via the feature race on Saturday afternoon, right through to the sprint race on Sunday, things did not go to plan for the American or his team.
“This weekend was a perfect storm and one to forget,” said Rossi, who is also one of the Caterham F1 team’s reserve drivers in 2014. “What seemed could go wrong for us, did go wrong. In free practice I struggled with the brakes, which was not an issue at the Bahrain International Circuit test here two weeks ago where we set quick laps.
“The brakes were corrected for qualifying but on my flying lap which was good enough for the front row through sectors one and two, a red flag forced me to abort sector three. We were last leaving pit lane once the circuit went green again and I was out of sequence and unable to improve. I was very disappointed starting 15th as our car was much better than that.
“For race one we knew early on that my set up would not protect the tyres from excessive degradation. After the pit stop for hard tyres, it was going to be difficult to stretch the tyres 27 laps, as I struggled with oversteer and traction way too early in the run. I did the best to manage it, to hold and fight for positions but in the end the tyre degradation was way too high and my lap times fell off about five seconds per lap from the leaders. From 20th position the team and I decided to pit again to check pressures and collect data for race two.
“Starting 22nd for race two the car was much better. I had a clean start and was able to grab ten positions in the opening lap but on lap two I was clipped on my right rear leaving a puncture, forcing a pit stop. After pitting for replacement tyres we set the quickest lap of the race and also verified that our tyre degradation was much less than Saturday’s race.”
Though he had two lowly finishes in Bahrain, the knowledge he and his team acquired could assist them as the season goes on, with the Spanish round next up in May. He might have started the season firmly on the back foot, but it was only round one of eleven.
“Finishing 22nd and 25th in the opening rounds was not a remote thought coming into the weekend, but fortunately our bad luck is now out of the way. We now have a really good understanding of the tyre for qualifying and the race so I look forward to Barcelona for a full reset next month and the actual beginning of our season.”