Stoffel Vandoorne: “We Have Great Potential”

The ART Grand Prix team took their first points since the opening race of the season in Bahrain when the GP2 Series hit the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Stoffel Vandoorne secured the runner-up spot to Felipe Nasr in the Feature race, while Takuya Izawa secured points in both races with ninth and eighth place finishes.

Vandoorne qualified sixth for the Feature race, and pitted early to try and gain some positions. It worked out perfectly for the Belgian, finishing second, taking his first points since winning the opening race of the season in Bahrain. Unfortunately he was delayed by an opening lap incident in front of him involving his team-mate in the Sprint race that meant he lost a few positions, and ultimately he ended the Sunday race down in fifteenth.

“Our pace in qualifying was good but the gaps are marginal in this series and even though I was less than 2 tenths of a second shy of the pole man, I had to start from P6,” said Vandoorne. “I made a good start and our strategy was fantastic as it helped me to get past a few drivers when I pitted earlier than all my rivals. The team performed a perfect pit stop but the degradation was still quite high on the soft tyres, even though it was less than on other tracks, and I had to manage my tyres in the last few laps.

“On Sunday, the bad luck we had during the last races came back and hit both of us. I could not really recover from the first lap when I had to run wide and was hit by a piece of Takuya’s car. Let’s hope everything will be just fine from start to finish in Silverstone as we have a great potential.”

Izawa qualified less than eight tenths of a second off the pole position time but the tight nature of the Austrian track meant that he would start sixteenth. He had a good feature race but was slightly disappointed to only finish ninth. He would move up to eighth in the Sprint race despite losing part of his front wing against Mitch EvansRussian Time machine at turn two on the opening lap.

“I must say I’m happy with the team and myself,” said Izawa. “The team gave me a great car and my pace in qualifying was better than on other circuits. Of course, teeny tiny gaps, I started from P16 but I had a great start and a very nice race. To finish P9 was a great performance. A bit frustrating though as I missed the Sprint race [pole] position for one position.

“I had another very good start on Sunday and I was really confident I could do something special. But my front wing broke in turn 2 when I hit Evans and after that the car was not as efficient as it was. I’m happy with the progress we’ve made and I’m looking forward to race in Silverstone.”

Team Principal Frederic Vasseur was happy to see Vandoorne finish on the podium and Izawa score points in both races in Austria.

“Overall, this was a very good weekend,” said Vasseur. “Stoffel was royal in the first race, managing a situation that was sometimes difficult and applying the team’s race strategy to perfection. For the first time he was on an equal footing with the other drivers.

“Takuya also showed he was an excellent driver. His rise through the field in the first race shows that, just as he proved in the second. With a little luck, he could have done great things in Austria.”