Saturday commenced with Qualifying 1 to determine the grid positions for Race 1 later in the day. By the time the session started it was already very warm, with track temperature already up to 42 degrees c.
On the the first run out on my first set of tyres, things went pretty well setting a time good enough to put me in P4 with grip levels challenging due to the track temperature.
On the second run we all went out relatively late in the session due to the very short window of opportunity in the tyres in these conditions, combined with the continuous corners which ask a lot of the tyres normally here. You get one lap at it, two at the most. I managed to set a quicker time, but didn’t improve as much as others in the dying seconds and as such qualified P9 of the 18 drivers. With the importance of qualifying here, the run on the second set of tyres will be a focus for tomorrow as whilst that was a solid result in a field of this quality we know we can push up higher.
I got away to a very good start in the race and held P9 with some close racing through the first lap. Early in the second lap the driver ahead made an error and I had to swerve at very close range to avoid him and pass around the outside. Having left the circuit to do so I managed to maintain momentum and hold P8.
From here it was a case of pushing the driver in front. Grip levels were challenging as the track temperatures were now a staggering 49 degrees c! Downforce is a challenge here when you get close to a car in front and throughout the race I was regularly closing within 5 or 6 tenths, but then struggling to stay there long enough to create a passing opportunity with the constant left, right combinations of corners.
Meanwhile we pulled a good 3 – 4 second gap on the drivers behind, and I was pleased to finish in P8 and inside the points through a challenging race without error.
Thank you to the team for the great car to drive, and we are looking forward to Q2 and Race 2.