GP2 Series returned for its ninth season, with the opening round at the Sepang International circuit in Malaysia.
Johnny Cecotto returns to the Series for his fourth season, whilst GP3 Championship winner, Mitch Evans, steps up into the category for his first year.
Evans was fourth on track and Cecotto seventh for the Friday morning practice session, which saw the team make use of the extra set of primes, a new tyre regulation for 2013.
Despite food poisoning, Evans qualified sixth in his first ever visit to the Sepang circuit. Cecotto qualified in fourteenth place, but was later penalised for an incident during the session with Sam Bird. The Venezuelan started from last position on the grid.
Both drivers made a great start for Race One, Evans fighting early with Felipe Nasr and James Calado, to move up to third place after the first lap. Cecotto halved his way through the grid to thirteen place.
It was a race not missing in incidents, Marcus Ericsson colliding with Jolyon Palmer on lap one and the MP Motorsport newcomer Adrian Quaife-Hobbs collided with his team-mate on lap four.
Evans made an early pit stop on lap six, having struggled to keep Nasr & Calado off his tail. He maintained seventh place for most of the race but tyre wear was damaging and he finished in tenth place, picking up his first point in his inaugural GP2 race.
Cecotto was handed a drive through penalty mid race for ignoring yellow flags and pitted later, although not hindering his early efforts he finished in twelfth place.
Once again, in Race Two, Evans and Cecotto made great starts to fourth and fifth place respectively. Calado made a charge on Leal on lap one and ended their race, which Evans narrowly avoided.
Calado was later penalised and will face a 10place grid penalty in Bahrain. Evans overtook Stephane Richelmi on lap 16 and drove to a podium finish. Cecotto followed 7seconds behind him finishing in fifth place, picking up his first points of the season.
The team leave Malaysia with 17points and stand fifth in the Championship.
Mitch Evans comments:
“For me, I had to learn the track and with these tyres had to get as much time out on track, as they would only last a few laps. My first proper lap was decent and there was time in me, so I pushed on for another lap.
I finished the session P4, which was very surprising, but I was pleased with that. I felt safe to say that I knew the track, so the focus was on qualifying.
I knew there was still more time to come from me, I was happy with the car, so I just had to try to get lap together. During Qualifying I was feeling rough, with food poisoning.
I knew we had good speed in practice, so I was hoping we could translate into the qualifying session. 1^st set of tyres, I made a mistake on my first 1^st push lap and ruined the rest of that run.
The car felt good, so it was down to me to get a good lap. 2^nd set push lap I had traffic, so had to put it together in my last lap but tyres had gone past their best.
It was a good effort to be 3 tenths off and p6. It was my first qualifying so you never know what is going to happen, I was satisfied with the outcome.
Race 1 was my first ever start in the car and thought it was going to be difficult - an unknown. The drivers were challenging for space in front of me, but I managed to overtake Calado and Nasr at T4 on the first lap 3^rd place, after that I struggled with the tyres and car felt harder to drive.
After the third lap, I kept dropping down, so we pitted early. With the long stint on primes I was hoping to finish p8 but had no tyres left with 15mins to go.
I brought it in in the best position I could and finished tenth. I am pretty happy with for my first weekend. Id set a goal to get points in first race and succeeded. We have the potential so think we can improve the balance to my liking for the second race.
In race two I got a decent start again, I went around the outside of a few cars at turn 1 and got myself into sixth. I was really lucky to avoid an accident at turn 4 and I then benefited from it making up another two positions.
The cars balance was much improved for my driving for this race, so I was able to stay with the front three and still able to save the tyres at the same time.
I seemed to have decent pace so I conserved the tyres until the last few laps and had a challenged on Richelmi for third place. Fortunately he made a mistake and I got by and then pulled away from him to cross the line in third.
It was a big step forward from race one, many good improvements were made. I think we can be satisfied with the weekend and hopefully continue our progress to Bahrain.”
Johnny Cecotto Jnr comments:
“We started the free practice very well and the balance of the car felt very good from the first laps. Finally with these temperatures the tyres work and we had a good balance.
We went very confident of doing well into the qualifying session but we were a bit unlucky.
You get only one lap on each set of tyres and we only have two sets, on the first set there were yellow flags in the last corner and on the second set there was a car that obstructed my lap while coming out of the pit lane.
I'm very happy about the race today, starting from the last position it wasn't an easy race but we managed to make the best of it.
Unfortunately we got a drive-through, like seven other drivers, for being quick in a sector that is very long and although I paid attention, despite having no traffic, I was half a second quicker in that sector the following lap showing I had slowed.
Despite this, we had great pace throughout the whole race and without the drive through we could have finished top eight, which would have been amazing for the starting position.
I'm very happy about how the weekend ended after the way we started it, we brought home some important points for the championship. I had a very good start and managed to gain a lot of positions in the first lap.
We tried to make the setup better than it was in race one, although it was already very good but it didn't quite work the way we thought so we had a bit of trouble with the tyre degradation in the last laps, I could just manage to maintain the 5th place.”