Matt Parry produced one of the best drives of his maiden GP3 Series season to convert eleventh on the grid into a podium finish at the Bahrain International Circuit.

The Briton had already shown his pace as the series resumed after another long late-season break, taking second spot in free practice on Thursday, but was denied a repeat performance in qualifying as a fuel cell issue slowed his Koiranen GP entry before he could complete a second run, restricting him to an unrepresentative 18th on the grid for race one.

“Qualifying was frustrating after the potential we showed in practice,” Parry admitted, “Bahrain was a new circuit to me so the 45 minutes of running were particularly useful, and finishing second after jumping up the order in the final moments was a great boost, but it all went wrong when it mattered most. I had posted a purple sector time through sector one and was looking good, but a problem with some mounts coming loose in the fuel cell caused a short circuit and that was my session over!”

Determined to show that his grid position was not indicative of his potential, Parry produced a feisty Saturday effort to climb to eleventh position, finishing just over five seconds from the final point but securing himself an improved - if not ideal - grid position for Saturday's finale. The result came despite the Briton picking up damage to his front wing in a typical opening lap skirmish and, after a conservative opening period designed to prolong the life if his Pirelli tyres, he defied the dinged endplate to catch and pass a string of cars before holding on at the front of a battle for eleventh that saw the #12 Koiranen car feature heavily on the television coverage.

“After starting so far back, the race could have been about damage limitation,” Parry acknowledged, “but, having gone easy on the tyres early on, there was good pace in the car, and I was able to pick off the cars ahead of me. Of course, they didn’t make it easy, but it was great to pick up so many positions, even if I finished just shy of the final point.”

With the desert sun beating down on the Sakhir venue ahead of race two on Saturday morning, the 21-year old made an aggressive start to immediately pick up three places, and wasted no time in moving up another position, to seventh, on the opening lap. Although his progress was interrupted by a red flag, which halted the race to clear up an accident deeper in the field, Parry was straight back on the attack at the restart, claiming two victims in as many laps before hunting down fellow Briton Emil Bernstorff and out-witting his defensive moves to make the pass for fourth place on lap eight.

Two laps later, the Welshman accounted for former Formula Renault team-mate Alfonso Celis Jr with a robust move that elevated the Koiranen car into a podium position and, from there, the Sport Wales ambassador pulled clear of the chasing pack to finish third, behind only title contenders Luca Ghiotto and Esteban Ocon.

“The car was great again, but a big key to the race was avoiding the chaos at the start and putting myself in a position to attack,” Parry explained, “I was aggressive into turn one and that helped me pick up three places and jump into the points straight away. After the red flag, I was always able to bridge the gap to the cars ahead and pick them off one-by-one.

“It was quite close with Bernstorff going into turn four but, when you race the top guys, you know there’s a lot of respect between each other and, although it may have looked quite close, it was all fairly safe. With Celis Jr, I was pretty aggressive, perhaps too much, but I didn’t do that intentionally. I braked late and, by then, I had gone for a move up the inside and was pretty committed. It pushed him wide but I think it was hard but fair. It was for the podium after all…

“After that, I tried to close the gap to Ocon and Ghiotto but I had no tyres left. I think having to battle pretty much all race cost me quite a bit, on the fronts in particular, but we were still able to maintain a good pace and, looking at the data, we maximised our times and tyres for the whole race, so I’m pretty pleased with that.

“We have had an awesome car here and, after the problems in qualifying, I really wanted to prove that it should have been in the top three. I think my commitment on track really showed that and it was nice to give the guys a podium. After a frustrating run of results, it feels great to be back up at the sharp end, and being up on the podium with the two guys chasing the championship is not only a boost to our confidence but also great motivation for next season.”

The result lifts Parry back into eighth position in the drivers' championship with just the final double-header remaining on the 2015 schedule. In a season characterised by lengthy breaks between races, the ninth and final round takes place at the spectacular Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi just a week after Bahrain, with full coverage on the Sky Sports F1 channel between 27-29 November.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.