The Spanish-based Racing Engineering team had a strong weekend around the Red Bull Ring as the GP2 Series season resumed in Austria. Raffaele ‘Lello’ Marciello had a breakthrough weekend by not only taking his first points of the season, but the 2013 European Formula 3 Champion and Ferrari Driver Academy driver took a podium finish in both races. Team-mate Stefano Coletti took fourth in the Feature race and followed that up by finishing second in the Sprint race.
Marciello started fifth but felt he could have been hire had he not caught the EQ8 Caterham Racing machine of Rio Haryanto at the last corner after being on a quicker lap. He made a relatively bad start to drop to tenth, but he impressed during the race to finish third for his first points and first podium of the season.
“The car was good and after the first run I knew there was a margin, so I didn’t want anything on my car to be changed for the second stint,” said Marciello. “At the beginning of the second stint I hit traffic and on my following lap I made a mistake. So I was confident knowing I could still improve as the wind was quite tricky today as well. Then I had a really good lap, but in the last corner Haryanto blocked me and I had to settle for P5. It’s a good result, but I know more was possible.”
“I am very happy with my first GP2 podium,” continued Marciello after the Feature Race. “We had a really good car, with a good pit stop and strategy. It’s also good that Stefano and I scored today as it moved us higher up in the standings as a team.
“I need to still improve my starts though as I think with a good start I can finish each race in the top 5. Today a good start would have allowed me to win. For tomorrow my objective is to finish on the podium again.”
Race two saw Marciello start sixth, but made his best start of the season and moved up to second after battling with his team-mate. However, he could not pass race leader Johnny Cecotto Jr and saw Coletti re-pass him as he began to struggle with tyre wear.
“Overall this was a good weekend,” said the Italian on Sunday. “I had a really, really good start. I was on used tyres and pushed hard at the beginning of the race, so I think I should have saved them a bit more, but I pushed for the win. When I was in third, I defended my position to Evans well as my tyres were pretty much gone during the closing laps. But overall finishing both races of the weekend on the podium is very good for me and the team.”
Team-mate Coletti qualified fourth after making a small mistake that he believed cost him a top three starting position. He was running second in the Feature race when he came up behind a back marker, who pushed him off track and lost him five seconds and the podium spot, ultimately ending up fourth.
“The conditions were strange today and the track was quicker in the morning session than in the afternoon,” said Coletti after qualifying. “The car was good enough to be in the top 3 today without any problem. I finished qualifying in P4 though as I made mistakes on my last lap in the last two corners, which is a shame as a front row start was possible.
“We had a good pace all race long and I ran in P2 for most of the time,” added Coletti after the Feature Race. “When just before my pit stop I lapped another driver, he pushed me off the track and I lost some 5 seconds there. I lost my second place because of this and had to finish the race in 4th.”
Race two saw the Monegasque driver start fifth but he moved up to fourth on the first lap. He passed Marciello for third before being re-passed by his Italian team-mate as Coletti took longer to warm up his tyres. When his tyres were finally up to working temperature, he took back second from Marciello and then chased after race leader Cecotto, but ultimately ran out of laps to make a serious challenge for the win.
“I had a good start moving from 5th to 4th,” said Coletti on Sunday. “I then passed Lello, but he was much quicker than me at the beginning of the race. My tyres took a longer time to get up to working temperature, but when they were ready, I started to push and passed Rossi on the outside of turn 3.
“I also passed Lello, who struggled with his tyres, so he let me go through. I then tried to catch Cecotto, but the gap was too big and I would have needed one or two laps more. But I am very happy with P2 and the fastest lap time in the race.”
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering was happy how the weekend went for both his drivers. He was particularly happy with Marciello having a breakthrough weekend, and was delighted to have both drivers on the podium on Sunday.
“We finally scored some good points with both drivers today,” said Couyotopoulo on Saturday after the Feature Race. “Lello had a poor start and dropped back to 10th, but did a really good job recovering positions on track and the strategy worked well. Stefano, on the other side, had a good start and strong long stint on primes, but unfortunately lost time in traffic when he got pushed off the track by a lapped car. This is where we lost his second position.
“I am glad though that our drivers had a clean fight during the closing laps, respecting each other, both can score important points again tomorrow. I am happy with Lello’s first podium in GP2.
“A very strong result from both cars today,” commented Couyotopoulo on Sunday after the Sprint Race. “Lello had a very good start and pushed hard during the entire race. As he didn’t start on new tyres, he suffered a bit during the closing laps, and had to give up his second place in favour of his team mate. He defended very well from Evans during this stage of the race and celebrated an excellent second podium this weekend.
“Stefano had a more reasonable pace during the first part of the race, but came back very strongly on the leader during the second half. He finished second, stuck to the car of Cecotto in front of him. Overall this has been a very positive weekend and we were finally able to translate our performance into results. A big thank you to our boys, who have done a great job by putting two fast and reliable cars on this new track. We will work hard to keep the momentum and get very strong results during the next events.”