in both races in Shanghai debut
Kiwi driver Chris van der Drift finished his first race weekend in the GP2 Asian series scoring points in both races. The 22 year old New Zealander competed for the first time in GP2 with Italian team Trident Racing at the Chinese Shanghai International Circuit, GP2 being a support class as part of the Formula 1 Chinese GP weekend.
During the first race, Van der Drift fought back strongly from a problem filled disappointing 16th in qualifying to a seventh place finish at the end. In Sunday’s sprint race he finished in a very well deserved fourth position. Although the opening weekend of the GP2 Asian Series included many experienced and talented drivers, Van der Drift was able to finish both races in the points.
In a GP2 main series test day held on 26 September at the French Paul Ricard HTTT circuit he drove to impressive fifth and fourth fastest times, leaving more experienced top level drivers behind him. The weekend in Shanghai however began less successfully. During the 30 minute free test session on Friday morning it was instantly obvious that there was something seriously amiss with Van der Drift’s car.
“When I drove out of the pits for the first time I noticed a problem with the handling of the car in the corners which we thought later turned out later to be a faulty shock damper. There was nothing that could be done quickly to rectify this so I just kept out on the track to get laps in” explained Van der Drift. “After the test session the team changed the damper and other parts in order to prevent further problems. As the session was only 30 minutes we didn’t have the opportunity to improve the cars setup for qualifying, as the problem with the damper would affect anything we did. So we went into qualifying not properly prepared, but there was nothing we could do” said Van der Drift.
“Unfortunately the qualifying session brought with it a new problem, this time the car wa! nted to constantly keep turning right so I had to continuously hold the steering wheel to the left down the straights. Later on we found the weight distribution in the front was wrong. Finding this, my mechanics then did a good job disassembling and reassembling a large part of the car checking for anything that could be a problem in the race the following day”.
To get in the points meant that the Kiwi would have to finish race one within the top eight. With a flying start the Kiwi began on his mission, and within a very short while he was in eleventh position, and this was later followed with a faultless pitstop placing him in seventh position which he maintained to the end.
This was despite several experienced drivers behind him attacking after the two safety car phases, which the New Zealander cleverly managed to defend. Even on the long straights where slipstreaming was a real possibility, Van der Drift was able to keep his rivals behind him.
“I really didn’t know how the car would handle for a race of 34 laps as we hadn’t done any long runs, but fortunately it handled very well and thanks to a great start and a good strategy we finished in the top eight as we had been aiming for” said Van der Drift.
In Sunday’s sprint race over 23 laps, Van der Drift began on grid two as a result of the reversed top eight rule. The Kiwi had a good start and was momentarily beside pole-sitter Davide Valsecchi but was unable to make the attempted pass stick. A fellow rival profited and moved into second place in front of Van der Drift.
“Javier Villa was the only driver later in the race that could get by me on the long straight, but I was able the keep the rest behind me. It was my goal to pick up points and we succeeded in doing that, but we have a lot of work to do. Due to the problems we had on Friday the car was not quick enough. I want to thank the team very much for this opportunity and I hope we can follow this up with more success if the opportunity is given to me” said Van der Drift.
Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Managing Director of Trident Racing "Trident Racing closed its first weekend of the 08-09 GP2 Asia Series season with a points finish captured on Race 2 by Chris Van Der Drift. The New Zealander showed an outstanding maturity in dealing with the assault of some more experienced drivers.
"After letting Villa pass by, as the Spaniard was on a faster pace, he kept DAMS` Jerome D`Ambrosio behind for the following 12 laps, despite the Belgian driver has already entered a full season. It`s a great result for a rookie like Chris, who was attempting his first GP2 race at Shanghai and play the right cards for a ride in the 2009 Main Series. Trident Racing ended the first race of the season with 5 points, a better score than the one achieved during the whole 2007-2008 championship.
"The overall performance improved significantly between Race 1 and Race 2, and we feel we`re still missing something in comparison to the other front runners. I want to ask our staff one more effort to be on top since the beginning at Dubai,! since qualifying will be vital in order to fight for a place on the podium. Trident Racing, set to be strengthened by the arrival of Riccardo Corbari, will be now focusing on the upcoming GP2 Main Series tests at Jerez and on the next GP2 Asia race at Dubai".