SO CLOSE TO PODIUM RETURN


Matt Parry came tantalisingly close to a double podium appearance on home soil before being forced to settle for a single fourth-place finish from two combative GP3 Series races at the British Grand Prix.

The Welsh ace, who grabbed his maiden GP3 Series at Silverstone twelve months ago, was a factor throughout the weekend as he set about making up for his Austrian disappointment, but was ultimately unable to overcome a brace of stewards’ decisions that made his weekend’s task that much harder.

Having posted a top ten time in free practice, Parry knew that there was more to come from his Koiranen GP-run Dallara in qualifying, and proved his pace despite the best efforts of the weather gods. After a red flag to mop up after several drivers caught out by a heavy rain shower, Parry was the first to re-emerge from the pits, remaining on slick tyres despite the tricky conditions. His intuition proved correct, however, as he immediately lapped 6secs faster than those opting for wet-weather rubber, and he continued to trade top times with Haas F1 test driver Charles Leclerc before pitting for a fresh set of tyres. Again, Parry returned to the head of the timesheet, this time with a half-second advantage, only for the stewards to delete the effort as the #14 narrowly exceeded the prescribed track limits at Stowe.

“I think I was unlucky to have the onboard camera this weekend,” Parry smiled wryly, acknowledging the extra witness to his ‘crime’, “I can’t have been too far over the kerbs, and I don’t think anyone else was penalised at that corner, but the rules are clear and there was nothing I could do about it. It’s a shame because I felt that I really maximised everything on that lap, especially having to be on track at the right time given the changing conditions.”

Now relying on his second-best lap, Parry dropped to twelfth on the closely-contested timesheet, which became eleventh on the grid when other post-session penalties were applied, and knew that he would have to be aggressive in Saturday evening’s race if he was to secure a good points haul.

Despite making a start he described as ‘only okay’, Parry was soon making progress, moving into the top ten by the end of the opening lap and seemingly catching and passing rivals at will. Two particularly spectacular moves at the entrance to the fast Becketts complex not only provided good television moments for the Sport Wales/Muscle Up-sponsored car, but also helped propel Parry into contention for a podium finish. Further moves on Koiranen team-mate Matevos Isaakyan and front row starter Sandy Stuvik moved the 22-year old up to fourth place but, despite his best efforts, the laps ran out before he could get close enough to challenge for the final step of the podium.

“After Austria, I resolved not to be as soft in the races and it definitely paid off,” Parry revealed, “My start wasn’t great, but I was able to make up places straight away by being super aggressive, especially through Maggotts, and it was nice to have tyre degradation back as a factor too, which meant that my experience came into play. Fourth was a great result from where we started, but it also underlined how much better it could have been had I not had my best qualifying time deleted. If I had started from the front row, I would definitely have been mixing it with the ART cars and a podium – maybe even a win - would have been there for the taking...”

Parry’s result meant that he started race two, very early on Sunday morning, from fifth on the partially-reversed grid and, despite being caught up in a first corner melee as the 22-car field dealt with more treacherous conditions, was soon making up places. The Welshman’s rapid progress was not without incident, however, as the #14 machine clipped the left-rear wheel of polesitter Arjun Maini’s car as it made a pass in heavy spray on the Hangar Straight, but he was already comfortable in second spot when the stewards decided to impose a 5secs time penalty for the contact. Worse still, the front wing of the Koiranen car had been knocked askew by the impact, and gradually worked itself loose, prompting race officials to show the black-and-orange warning flag to summon Parry into the pits. Combined with the time penalty, the unexpected stop for repairs dropped the #14 well down the field before crossing the line an unrepresentative 16th overall.

“I’m disappointed by the incident with Maini,” Parry sighed, “I’m usually good at judging where my front wing is but, this time, I got it slightly wrong. Maini moved left when I moved left, but I have to take the blame for ruining my race. The contact cost me second place, and a possible win, but the stewards did the right thing by calling me in – you can’t see the front wing from the cockpit and it doesn’t bear thinking about what might have happened if it had come off completely… The damage didn’t affect the car initially, but got gradually worse, and I was struggling to hold on with the loss of downforce and understeer through the corners.

“However, despite the frustration at not being able to stand on the podium in front of my home crowd, I can still take a lot of positives away from Silverstone, mainly that Koiranen is now the second best team out there, even if the results don’t show it. The car felt great in all conditions and my racing was more aggressive this weekend, which bodes well as we look forward to Hungary. All we need now is a little change of luck...”


Round four of the 2016 GP3 Series takes place in support of the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring over the weekend of 22-24 July.

 

Article created by Craig Llewellyn.