Nancy Knapp Schilke, GP2 Correspondent
After delay to the start of the GP2 Series qualifying on Circuit Spa-Francorchamps, Rio Haryanto was the first to take to the track on the Pirelli wet tyres, and the first to set a fast lap. The Indonesian’s day of firsts climaxed when the checkered flag was shown as he claimed his first GP2 pole.
“I'm very pleased with the result! It's been a long time coming, and I think everything was working very well, I was in the right place at the right time,” said Haryanto. “It wasn't easy! I had to push without making any mistakes, and I think we were quick straight away from the beginning: the car was very good today, and I have to say thank you to the team.”
I am looking forward to tomorrow's race!
Carlin’s Haryanto kept setting the time to beat throughout the session despite the pressure from the two Louts GP drivers in the final surge to knock him off the top of the timesheets. Both James Calado and Esteban Gutiérrez gave it their best shots but fell short by just over one-tenth of a second.
Calado commented in today’s post qualifying press conference: “We knew right from the start of free practice this morning that both mine and Esteban's cars were capable of being at the front: we made a few changes and went out, and it felt pretty good.”
Haryanto’s fastest lap was a 2:17.535 while Calado clocked a 2:17.643 followed by Mexico’s Gutiérrez with a 2:17.736. The pole winner added, “I had to push for a good lap, but I am very pleased with the result, and I am looking forward to tomorrow's race!”
Giedo van der Garde for Caterham Racing was joining the Indonesian of putting in fast laps in the early part of the session, but he soon fell off the pace. Instead, Marcus Ericsson was attempting to rival Haryanto for the top spot.
At the halfway mark, the drivers came in for new rubber. That was when the Briton, Calado and Sweden’s Ericsson had a clear track, and both pushed hard to lay down lap times that Haryanto had beat. But it was not their day as Calado said, “I managed to do 2 laps which were quite similar speed, both with tiny little mistakes which maybe could have put me in front of Rio, but he did a better job today and is a tenth in front, so congratulations to him on his first pole position. A great job for Lotus ART, we are second and third, and in contention for a race win tomorrow.”
The Mexican hot shoe was able to best the lap laid down by iSport’s Ericsson to join his teammate in the final fight for the pole.
When asked about the run for the championship, Gutiérrez stated: Honestly the championship is not in my mind: I am just trying to enjoy it! We have 3 very important events: Spa is one of my favourite circuits, Monza is a very fast circuit where there is a lot of overtaking, and Singapore is one I'm really looking forward to it, a street circuit which looks very interesting, very dynamic. I am really just taking everything race by race, the aim is to win every race, and the rest is not in my hands: in the end we will see the results.”
Ericsson will start on the second row with his time of 2:18.058. He will be alongside Gutiérrez.
On the third row for Saturday’s Feature Race will be Jolyon Palmer for iSport and DAMS’ Davide Valsecchi. Sergio Canamasas for Venezuela GP Lazarus and Racing Engineering’s Fabio Leimer are on row four. DAMS young rookie Felipe Nasr and van der Garde round out the top ten.
Weather is very changeable at the famous circuit, and while early reports indicate that there are no major storms on the horizon, that could easily change. If there is another downpour near or at the standing start, the GP2 officials could elect to start under yellow behind the pace car.
Actually today’s pole winner wants a wet race. Haryanto said, “Hopefully the weather will be wet, because today we were quite quick! But you never know, but a good start and a good strategy for the race, and we can maintain the position.”