Motorsport: So close every point vital

By Eric Thompson

Mitch Evans (yellow car) grabbed 28 points at the GP2 champs in Austria last weekend to jump from 10th to second in the leadership standings. Photo / Supplied
Mitch Evans (yellow car) grabbed 28 points at the GP2 champs in Austria last weekend to jump from 10th to second in the leadership standings. Photo / Supplied

Bagging 28 points at the last round of the GP2 championship in Austria last weekend saw Kiwi racer Mitch Evans jump from 10th in the series to second.

GP2 is one of the closest-fought open-wheel championships going as the drivers vie for a seat at the top table in Formula 1.

This weekend the championship is at the British Grand Prix for round four and on a track, Silverstone, of which Evans has fond memories. The series is so fiercely contested that after four rounds and eight races only 21 points separate the top 10 drivers.

The 21-year-old's 2016 season with new team Pertamina Campos Racing started on the back foot, picking up no points at the opening round in Spain. However, he picked up points at the following rounds and arrives in Britain fresh from his first win of the season in the feature race last weekend in Austria.

"From a driver's perspective it's great to have back-to-back race weekends," said Evans from his UK base. "Last weekend was a bit of a bizarre one for us. We changed a lot of things because things hadn't been working out [with the car].

"We also had a completely different strategy than anyone else for the race. It could have gone completely wrong but it didn't and with the car working really well we got the victory.

"I'll grab the result with both hands and it put us right back in the hunt for the championship. We've turned ... a corner with the car and it's put us back where we should be.

"We've made progress with the car but we have to keep improving. The sweet spot is so small that it's hard to get it right for each track consistently, but we're working on it and are heading in the right direction."

Silverstone is a place the Kiwi loves to get his teeth into and is one of his favourite tracks on the GP2 calendar. It helps that the Towcester circuit, near Northampton in the Midlands, is Evans' home track away from home.

The track is a mixture of fast and furious sections tempered by more technical aspects that challenge the drivers and engineers searching for the perfect car setup. The high lateral loads placed on the cars through the fast sections, coupled with the high grip surface, will take its toll on the tyres, so finding the right balance will be crucial.

"Last weekend was a turning point and these upcoming races are really important. Hopefully we'll be a lot more competitive this weekend and afterwards than in the past.

"The track [Silverstone] is my favourite one of the year. It's a real drivers' track that is fast and flowing and one of those circuits you love racing on.

"It's been a good place for me in the past. I got pole in GP3 and won my first GP2 race there. It's a track I normally go pretty well on, and if the car's in a good window I'm confident we'll get a good result. If you're not in the window it [the series] is so competitive you're out the back door.

"The weather could play a big part over the weekend as it's been pretty bad here lately," said Evans.

Consistency is the key in the GP2 world of racing and although getting the win is every driver's dream, placing in the points is just as vital, as shown by series leader Raffaele Marciello, who is yet to win a race in 2016. There have been seven different race winners in eight races so far and no one has found any momentum yet to pull away from the pack.

Therefore, this weekend would be as good a place as anywhere for Evans to put a stake in the ground and make a move on the series leader and open a gap at the front of the field.

"Everyone's being inconsistent with scoring big and then not scoring at all. Even when we've been a bit average and only picking up a few points they've turned out to be vital.

"It's so bloody close. [We need every point] over the next few rounds to be [near the top of the table] towards the end of the season," he said.

GP2 four rounds in

1. Raffaele Marciello 66

2. Mitch Evans 56

3. Norman Nato 55

4. Artem Markelov 54

5. Oliver Rowland 54

6. Antonio Giovinazzi 52

7. Alex Lynn 51

8. Pierre Gasly 47

- NZ Herald

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