Stoffel Vandoorne got virtually everything right in Sochi, but left Russia without taking the GP2 Series victory his pace and consistency deserved due to the ill-timing of the safety car during Saturday’s Feature race.
The Belgian took his third pole position in a row and was leading comfortably when the safety car was deployed to remove Stefano Coletti’s stricken Racing Engineering machine from the side of the road.
Vandoorne’s ART Grand Prix team called him into the pits to take his mandatory pit stop but too late for him to do it, and the team instead tried a different strategy, stretching his lead with a number of excellent laps before being able to finish fifth.
He made a great start during Sunday’s Sprint race to move into third, and then took second when Sergio Canamasas was forced to retire, but could not make a move on Marco Sorensen for the win.
“We had incredible pace this weekend and that’s a great feeling,” insisted Vandoorne. “We’ve been on a good flow ever since the summer break with pole positions and wins and it’s always good to see that hard work bears fruit.
“I think the feature race was the best of my career, but to be hit with such bad luck was just incredible. I felt sorry for the team because I wanted to hand them this win, especially after what happened in Japan.
“As for Sunday’s race, it was hunting time! It was a lot of fun and to be back on the podium was really good. Let’s just hope that we will have the same pace but without the bad luck in Abu Dhabi.”
Team Principal Frederic Vasseur praised Vandoorne for his efforts, and was hoping for a victory to dedicate to former ART Grand Prix driver Jules Bianchi.
“First of all, we all have a deep thoughts for Jules Bianchi, who wore the colours of ART Grand Prix in GP2,” said Vasseur. “We would have liked to dedicate a victory to him, but it was denied to Stoffel even though he had done everything to deserve it.
“His speed over one lap, his race pace, intelligence and maturity are exceptional for a rookie and I’m sad for him that he was not rewarded in the first race.”
Vandoorne’s strong pace in Russia meant he closed the gap to second placed Felipe Nasr in the championship to just eleven points with only the two races in Abu Dhabi to come next month.