Matt Parry opened his 2016 GP3 Series account with points in both races at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, but admits that he could have been standing on the top step of the podium rather than accepting sixth and seventh places.

The Welshman arrived in Austria having been denied a scoring finish at the opening double-header in Barcelona, but had shown his potential by running at the front of a closely-matched two-day group test at the Austrian venue and then underlined that with sixth spot in Friday’s 45-minute practice session. Qualifying promised even more, with Parry remaining in touch with the leading positions, and looking set to improve on his final run, before a repeat of a problem he suffered at the same round last season reared its head two turns from home.

“There are a number of safety features built into the GP3 car, and I hit one of the limiters on the engine at just the wrong time,” Parry explained, “It was a different corner this year, but the car went into safety mode approaching turn eight and I lost 50 per cent of the throttle when I tried to accelerate out. That was probably worth two or three tenths, which would have been enough to push me up to at least third on the grid.”

Matching the sixth position he achieved in practice, Parry knew that he would need to make some quick moves to improve on that during the opening 24-lap race on Saturday evening, but a poor getaway meant that he had to be aggressive through the first few corners. Having climbed to fourth, however, he found himself caught behind Koiranen GP team-mate Ralph Boschung at turn three, leaving him vulnerable to attack from behind and ultimately costing a couple of positions. Although able to keep pace with those ahead of him, despite running in ‘dirty’ air, Parry’s attempts to re-pass were again frustrated by the limitation of the 2016 car and tyres and, as rain began to fall towards the end of the race, he conceded another position as he sought the driest line.

“I just didn’t race well,” the 22-year old lamented, despite recovering to sixth when one of the drivers ahead of him pitted for repairs, “My start was poor, but I still managed to be challenging for third part way around the opening lap. Then I got boxed in behind my team-mate and that undid the earlier effort! I had good pace through the middle of the race, but just couldn’t manufacture a passing opportunity before the rain came, and then I was too soft going into turn three when the conditions changed, and that allowed [Antonio] Fuoco to jump me. [Oscar] Tunjo’s problem at the end promoted me back to P6, but it should have been better!”

The final few laps on Saturday were nothing compared to what greeted the drivers early on Sunday morning, with race two having to take its start behind the safety car due to extent of the downpour. Starting from third on the partially-reversed grid, Parry was quickly promoted to second on the road when one of the ART cars developed a problem, but no racing was possible until lap ten.

When the field was unleashed, the Welshman made no secret of his intent, harrying leader Jake Hughes into the first corner, but both Britons saw their hopes of a maiden GP3 win disappear on exit as the leader bogged down and Parry had nowhere to go but into the back of the DAMS machine. Although he briefly continued as the new race leader, Parry’s #14 Koiranen car had suffered enough front end damage to hamper both grip and retardation and, when he slithered off the road a couple of corners later, he dropped to seventh as the safety car made the first of several reappearances.

“Despite the conditions, I wanted to go racing as I really felt that I had the ability to win,” Parry said, “I was in second because [Nirei] Fukuzumi had his car lapse into safety mode because of the conditions and, unfortunately, it seems that Jake had a similar issue because he went nowhere exiting turn one. I was so close behind him that there was no way of avoiding contact, and that effectively ended both our races. The contact damaged my front wing and also made it hard to brake, and that’s why I went off the road. After that, it was probably fortunate that the safety car kept returning because it would have been hard for me to hold position.

“It’s definitely a missed opportunity as the Koiranen car was clearly very good in the conditions. My team-mate went on to win the race, and I would have had an obvious advantage if I’d managed to get to the front, where there would have been no spray to contend with. It’s frustrating, but it is what it is. I’ll just take whatever positives I can from Austria and look to get something more from my home race this weekend..”

Round three of the 2016 GP3 Series takes place in support of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone over the weekend of 8-10 July, and Parry will be hoping to repeat the sort of form that saw him stand on the podium one year ago.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.