PATIENT PODIUM AT HOCKENHEIM


Matt Parry stood on the GP3 Series podium for the second time in as many weekends after claiming a hard-earned – and well thought out – third place in the feature race at Hockenheim in Germany.

One week on from his breakthrough victory at the Hungaroring, the Welshman bided his time in converting sixth on the grid into more silverware as he mastered the expected tyre wear on his Koiranen GP entry and mounted a late charge that saw him pick off both championship leaders in the space of one corner.

Without previous GP3 experience at Hockenheim - after the 2015 was cancelled along with the German Grand Prix - Parry spent Friday evening’s practice session relearning the circuit as he experimented with various set-up options, unconcerned by chasing fastest times. Come qualifying, however, the 22-year old was confident that he could again challenge for pole position, as he had at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring earlier in the month.

“Having worked hard to optimise the car in practice, I knew that I could be in the battle for pole,” Parry confirmed, “Unfortunately, I didn’t quite hook the complete lap up and a couple of small errors were enough to cost me a spot on the front row. It was only a matter of tenths, but a lock-up into turn two and having to move slightly off the ideal line into the hairpin was all it took to push me down to sixth on the grid.”

Despite being disappointed with the outcome of Saturday morning’s qualifying session, Parry remained upbeat, knowing that a revised starting procedure had paid dividends in recent races. True to form, he immediately made up a place at the start of race one later that day, and was looking for more when the safety car was called to clear away cars damaged in incidents further down the field. With the lead group bunching up ahead of the restart, the Koiranen car appeared set to pounce when racing resumed and, having moved up to fourth at turn one, came close to gaining further places before being bundled across the kerbs at the hairpin.

Having to recover both the track and his composure, Parry settled back into fifth place, but resisted the temptation to challenge points leader Alexander Albon through the middle of the 23-lap race, aware that he needed to preserve his Pirelli tyres for the closing stages when the less experienced drivers ahead of him would begin to suffer as their rubber degraded. With just over a lap to run, and having been harrying Albon for some time, the pair reeled in the battle for second place, allowing Parry to pull off a spectacular move around the outside of both Albon and Haas F1 protege Charles Leclerc to claim third place with just a handful of corners to run.

“It was an eventful race, I can tell you that,” a delighted Parry smiled afterwards, “I tried to make up more places on the opening lap, but had to settle in behind Leclerc before the safety car period. Once that was over, I got a good restart and gained a place when Albon went off, but was then pushed out over the kerbs at the hairpin by another driver, which undid all my hard work. I was challenging for third at that point and reckon I could have gone on to threaten Antonio Fuoco, who eventually won the race, if it hadn’t been for that moment.

“After that, I backed off through the middle part of the race, doing enough to keep tabs on the cars ahead of me but not taking too much out of the tyres because I knew I’d get a chance to push again later on. It was hard to make the definitive move and pass Albon, but the battle for second place meant that Leclerc and de Vries came back to us, and that was my opportunity. Although de Vries got away, the others helped me by battling each other on the run to the hairpin, and I was able to pull off an opportunist move by taking the outside line and carrying greater speed into the corner to pass both of them in one go.”


Third place in race one meant a return to sixth on the grid for Sunday’s sprint race, but there was to be no repeat of the climb through the field as Parry found it harder to get performance out of his tyres in the early morning conditions. After only four laps, the #14 machine became a handful for the Sport Wales/MuscleUp Apparel-backed driver to control and, despite his best efforts to hold on to early gains, he eventually slipped back to seventh at the chequered flag.

“We reverted to the tyres I had used in qualifying, but they weren’t as good as we’d hoped,” Parry admitted, “After only four laps, I was struggling to turn the car as there was no grip at the front and I was getting increasing understeer. From there, I just had to be sensible, keep things clean and make sure that I came away with some points rather than trying to contest every corner.

“Although the result wasn’t what I wanted, there are still plenty of positives to take into the summer break. It was great to be back on the podium so soon after winning in Hungary, and I really have to thank the Koiranen team, who gave me a great car with awesome pace. We’ve scored points in the last four races and I’m still in touch with the top guys in the championship with the second half of the season to go. We’ve got a strong package now and it’ll be up to the team and I to bring it together over the remaining rounds.”


Round six of the 2016 GP3 Series takes place in support of the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend of 26-28 August.

 

Article created by Craig Llewellyn.