Bahrain feature race winner Stoffel Vandoorne was ecstatic post-race but knew that tyre management was key to his victory. The ART Grand Prix driver started the race from second of the grid but led into the first corner, and held off the challenges from Jolyon Palmer and Julian Leal to win in his first GP2 race.
“It was a very good race for us starting from P2,” said Vandoorne on the official GP2 website. “I had a really good start. I took the lead and leading the opening lap was a key I think because it’s always the best position to manage the tyres. I managed the soft in the first laps before the safety car came in. I had a really good re-start and pushed for two more laps than my closest rivals which was quite a risky strategy maybe because the others would come out on new tyres.”
McLaren F1 reserve driver Vandoorne pitted on lap nine, whereas Palmer and Leal pitted earlier after the safety car, but the Belgian had managed his soft tyres well and came out of the pits further ahead of the chasing pack that he had been before the pit stops had begun.
“I probably could have run a bit longer because tyre degradation was okay but I decided to pit and to be sure and safe to keep the lead. We kept it. The team did a really fantastic pit stop and from then on it was just about managing the tyres.
“I was thinking to stay maybe a bit longer on the soft tyres, everything looked fine, but with these tyres, you never know: they can be fine on the next lap in the first two sectors and then in the following sector, they can drop off massively.
“That could mean you losing the race. We just wanted to be safe and keep the lead because we already had made two more laps than the others on the soft tyres. I think we made the right decision.
“Jolyon looked to be pushing a little too hard behind and thus he lost a bit of pace in the end. Julian Leal looked really quick in the end so I think a couple more laps and we would have been in danger… But anyway, that was a good race. We managed to keep the lead and that’s what counts in the end.”
When asked about how he managed the gap to the competitors behind, he fell back onto the tyre management comments.
“It’s all about tyre management so we’re not pushing to the limit. When everybody is driving on the same pace, you need to do a better job than the other person. And I tried to save my tyres better. You have to adapt your driving corner to corner. The car felt good as well and it helped me to do a good job today.”
Vandoorne will start from P8 on the reverse grid for the sprint race on Sunday, and he understands the importance of a clean start to have a good race.
“I want to score a maximum amount of points and stay out of trouble. I will need to have a good start again and we should be in a good position during the race again and see where we end up.”