Caterham Racing showed good pace in Sochi but both Pierre Gasly and Rio Haryanto ultimately left the first GP2 Series event in Russia without scoring.
Red Bull Racing-backed Gasly believed he could have scored his first GP2 points during Saturday’s Feature race had the safety car not been deployed to remove Stefano Coletti’s Racing Engineering car from the side of the road, as the timing he felt cost him a couple of places.
“The car was better than in Monza and without the safety car at the beginning of the race it could have been much better today,” said Gasly. “I had to release the safety car when I was at turn two after my pit stop, which meant I lost a couple of places, but this had to be done to avoid being penalised.
“Unfortunately I was a bit stuck behind the car in front of me at the end of the race. I was much faster than him but I just did not have the traction to make a better exit than him before the straight and get a tow. I tried until the last lap to pass, but I would have made a crash trying to pass and took 11th place.
“The result is ok today and to be so close to scoring points in my second GP2 race weekend is good. Plus I got some more mileage and experience in the GP2 car. Now my aim tomorrow is to finish inside the top ten and score some points for myself and the team.”
During Sunday’s Sprint race, Gasly once again lost out with a safety car, as he was running a comfortable seventh. Behind the safety car, the field bunched up, and when he made a mistake while challenging Andre Negrao for sixth, he was swallowed up and ultimately finished eleventh once more.
“We have been a bit unlucky today and I can’t believe we were so close to scoring points,” said Gasly. “I started 11th and managed to move up to seventh before the safety car. Our pace was really good compared to the leaders and I had a big gap to the car behind.
“After the safety car I was having a great battle with Negrao for sixth, but I locked up in the last sector and ran wide. I picked up a lot of marbles on my tyres from that, losing more places on the last lap. It was worth taking a chance; if it had been a [Formula] Renault 3.5 race with thoughts of the championship I wouldn’t have done it. But this time it was worth it, a shame we missed out on the points though because the pace was there, we made great improvements in the car this weekend so I could drive it the way I like and I was really enjoying myself.
“I have definitely started to get a better feeling in the GP2 car this weekend. We have made some big changes which helped me become more confident that I could drive the car in my own style. “
I am just disappointed for myself and the team not to collect points for the seventh place we deserved today, but that is racing and I was just pushing hard until the end of the race to make the best position possible. I have to learn from this but if we just look at the pace today it was a very good experience.”
Haryanto took an alternative strategy to most of the other drivers on the grid to go with the slower Pirelli tyre for the first stint, and like his team-mate he felt he could have scored points had it not been for the safety car on Saturday.
“We took a gamble to go prime – option today and we were on a different strategy compared to most of the cars,” said Haryanto. “Considering the pace we had I think this strategy was the right decision and we were just unlucky with the safety car which allowed most cars to pit and lose no time. “
The safety car was obviously the biggest issue for us as today we were quick. I did have a small problem with the brakes feeling soft at the start of the race but I was able to manage this and it was resolved quickly.
“It wasn’t a great result on paper, but in terms of performance I feel that we were better than this and deserved a good result today.
“No matter where you start on the grid, every race gives you a new opportunity and we have to just keep focussed even though it is hard to start towards the back. Anything can happen and I hope tomorrow we will have a better result than today.”
Despite making a better start, but lost positions as he ran wide to avoid the spun car of Jolyon Palmer before ultimately finishing the race fifteenth.
“My start was much better than yesterday and I passed three cars before turn one,” stated Haryanto. “Palmer spun ahead of me when I was on the inside line. I had to make a late call to go to the left of him but there were so many cars there I lost positions. It was a messy first lap and I ran wide at the entry of turn six. I felt the rear of the car slide a lot, this feeling did not improve for a few laps and I thought I may have a puncture but it looks like it was actually just dirt from running offline. “
After that I was down in 19th place and struggling with corner entry so I could not make much progress, apart from passing Lancaster after the safety car. The last lap was just chaos and there was no opportunity to pass anyone else.
“I need to have a good look at everything before Abu Dhabi as I obviously want to end the season on a good note.”