Matt Parry may not have completely shaken the misfortune that has dogged the second half of his maiden GP3 Series campaign, but at least showed he had lost none of his qualifying pace en route to returning to the points at Sochi Autodrom.

After a five-week gap since the previous round at Monza, Parry was raring to get back to racing, but first had to learn the nuances of the unique Sochi circuit, which winds its way around the former Winter Olympic park in the Black Sea resort. His previous foray to Russia had yielded a rare Formula Renault Eurocup podium in 2014 but, despite a run of four races where bad luck had prevented any addition to a strong mid-season points tally, the Welshman was confident of again being able to mix it with the series frontrunners.

Unfortunately, the weather gods did not smile kindly on those unfamiliar with the venue, with heavy rain and failing light blighting Friday’s practice session but, having posted the 13th best time, Parry remained upbeat ahead of the following morning’s qualifying session, which also began with a damp track surface. This time, however, the rain held off and, as the road dried, so times began to come down, with the qualifying order changing with almost every car that completed a lap.

“Practice was tricky as I needed the learn the track without making the sort of mistake that would have given the team a lot of work overnight,” Parry, who eventually posted the sixth-best qualifying time, explained, “Having done that, I needed to pick up the pace in qualifying, especially with the times changing as quickly as they were. The only mistake I made was crossing the line too early for my last lap, which meant that later runners had a chance to go faster than me, but being in the top six – and ahead of some of the more experienced guys – was still a good result.”

Unfortunately for Parry, he was adjudged to have impeded another competitor earlier in the qualifying session, and the ensuing penalty dropped him three positions on the grid for race one, which should have followed final F1 practice on Saturday morning. However, with barrier repairs required after Carlos Sainz’s accident, the race was postponed until early on Sunday, creating a unique double-header for the GP3 Series teams.

Shrugging off the early start, Parry was determined to show that he deserved a top six spot and, after making a decent start, picked off a couple of rivals on the opening lap. Despite keeping in touch with the drivers immediately ahead of him for the next couple of laps, braking issues on the #12 Koiranen car eventually dropped the Sport Wales ambassador off the tail of the group, with team-mate Jimmy Eriksson closing in from behind as the two blue-and-white cars ran in formation to the chequered flag.

“I made a good start and was able to take advantage of the pack charging into turn two to grab a couple of positions,” Parry confirmed, “After that, I thought I had a chance to move up a little further but, after a couple of challenges for sixth, it became clear that my brakes weren’t at their optimum and I had to be careful not to make a mistake. Although I dropped away from the group ahead, I wanted to make sure I got back in the points after a barren couple of rounds, so it was good to hold on to seventh place.”

Under GP3’s reverse grid rule, Parry and Eriksson would line up alongside each other on an all-Koiranen front row for the second race of the weekend a couple of hours later, but the pair would go on to have diversely different results. While the Swede made a good getaway from pole, Parry’s start was less satisfying and, having slipped back into the pack, the 21-year old fell victim to contact which not only saw him run off the road at turn 13 but also pick up a puncture that ended his weekend.

“It was a frustrating way to end the meeting, but it was largely of my own making,” Parry admitted, “After a poor start, I made a couple of other mistakes trying to recover and poor track position saw me swallowed up by the pack. Once in the melee, contact was always a possibility and that was that.”

Despite the disappointment, Parry remains in the top ten of the overall championship standings and, with a six-week break before the final back-to-back double-headers in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, has time to plot his recovery. Round eight of the 2015 GP3 Series season, rescheduled to replace the cancelled German Grand Prix support, takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir over the weekend of 19-21 November, with full coverage on the Sky Sports F1 channel.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.