Matt Parry had the speed to challenge for his first win in the GP3 Series, but an unfortunate chain of events saw him leave the Autodromo Nazionale at Monza with nothing to show for it.

Having escaped unhurt from the aftermath of someone else’s accident at Spa-Francorchamps two weeks earlier, Parry headed to Italy determined to get his points chase back on track, and showed that he meant business from the start of the weekend, posting the fourth-fastest time in the half-hour practice session on Friday evening, despite having never previously been to Monza.

The Welsh youngster then went one better in qualifying the following morning, defying a downpour and wet track to move up to third overall, behind only the two main championship contenders, and confirm a second row start for that afternoon’s race.

“The practice session was very good considering that I had only ever seen Monza on the PlayStation and in the team’s simulator – and real life is massively different!” Parry confirmed, “It was very positive to only be a few tenths off the pace, especially as I knew where I could improve for qualifying.

“Having never really driven the car in the wet before, I was hoping for a dry qualifying session to build on practice, but the rain was hammering down when we got to the track! Despite that, the car was really nice to drive – the Koiranen team did a good job with the set-up – and I was pleased to be third fastest, especially as a lot of the other drivers had more experience of those conditions.”

Despite his strong qualifying performance, Parry knew that he still needed to negotiate Monza’s notorious opening corner complex, with the right-left chicane at Rettifilio having the spelt the end of many a driver’s ambition over the years. His getaway was a little slow, but that actually helped as poleman Luca Ghiotto stalled and the delay gave Parry time to jink around the Italian. Although taking evasive action cost a place initially, Parry made it safely through the chicane and, having fought to establish his position around the Curva Grande, was perfectly placed to take advantage of the squabbling at the second chicane and move into second place.

Throughout the first half of the race, the Sport Wales ambassador kept leader Esteban Ocon on his toes, challenging the Frenchman for top spot on more than one occasion as they opened a gap over the chasing pack. Ocon was wise to the rookie’s efforts, however, and, as Parry’s efforts took their toll on his tyres, the drivers behind were able to close in, eventually relegating the Koiranen GP ace to fourth place on the final lap.

While missing the podium was tough to swallow after running second for so long, worse was to follow for Parry, as post-race scrutineering determined that his #12 machine was underweight. The difference was a measly half-kilo, but that was enough to earn the 21-year old a disqualification – and demote him to the back of the grid for Sunday’s second race.

“Having to get around Ghiotto cost me places, but I was able to brake later than those ahead of me into the second chicane, and moved up to second when they touched,” Parry related, “After that, however, I made the mistake of pushing too hard, trying to pressure Ocon into a mistake, when maybe I could have saved the tyres. I tried to defend, but it just wasn’t possible.

“Obviously, it was disappointing to miss out on the podium at the last gasp but, as it turned out, I would never have been allowed to keep it anyway. It was only a minor miscalculation, but underweight is underweight….”

As irony would have it, Parry once again found himself lining up directly behind Ghiotto but, while the local favourite was able to carve his way through the field, Parry’s race ended before the opening lap was out. Having lagged at the start, the Welshman was forced to pull over at the second chicane, his alternator – and any hope of points – dead.

“I went into race two optimistic that I could come through the pack and perhaps pick up a few points, but I never had the chance,” Parry sighed, “The alternator failed at the start, which was why I was so slow away, and the car just went into safe mode by the time I got to the second chicane.

“It’s easy to think of what might have been – with the points from race one and a third row start in race two, I reckon I could have been knocking on the top five in the championship – but there’s nothing for it but to look forward and aim to get back amongst the frontrunners next time. I’ve shown what I am capable of, and I’m confident that I can keep on producing this sort of performance for the rest of the season.”

Despite the setback, Parry remains comfortably in the top ten of the overall championship standings and, with three double-header rounds remaining on the schedule, still has the opportunity to make further inroads. Round seven of the 2015 GP3 Series season takes place at the Sochi Autodrom in Russia over the weekend of 9-11 October, with full coverage on the Sky Sports F1 channel.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.