Brake issues mean no points for Mitch in Hockenheim

Unfortunately brake issues put paid to a fight-back this year and spelled a retirement for the young Pertamina Campos Racing driver.  Sunday’s sprint race was always going to be a challenge from the resultant 18th on the grid but thanks to an opportunity to pit for fresh tyres, the Aucklander was able to claw his way up to 10th, just outside of the points.  

Mitch was elevated up a grid row for the start of Saturday’s feature race when Antonio Giovinazzi was excluded from qualifying due to a ride height infringement.  The Campos driver made a clean start from 14th and was up to 11th before the end of lap one, in part due to a terrible start from Pierre Gasly who dropped from second to 12th.   A retirement on lap seven due to Mitch’s former Russian Time team-mate Artem Markelov running into the back of Jordan King, coupled with two drivers pitting, meant Mitch was running seventh once the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) period to collect Markelov’s car had ended.  Two laps later a second VSC was initiated when Mitch’s current Campos team-mate, Sean Galael, was taken out by Daniel de Jong – both cars retiring on the spot.  Just prior, Gasly, who until then had been racing hard with Mitch, hit the back of the Kiwi’s car; thankfully avoiding any serious damage.  

Unfortunately though, the second VSC period signalled the beginning of the end of Mitch’s race when tyre degradation reached a tipping point - the 22 year old losing places to Luca Ghiotto and Gasly before rushing into the pits for fresh tyres on lap 13.  Unbeknown to the mechanics at the time, a brake fluid leak had been triggered.  Mitch left the pits but was forced to return immediately, calling over the team radio that ‘his brake was going to the floor’.  Sadly for the Campos team it meant a double retirement by lap 15 as they were unable to get the young Kiwi back out.  The race was eventually won by pole man Sergey Sirotkin; Ghiotto and Gasly joining him on the podium, though the latter was later excluded from the race for finishing with an empty fire extinguisher which had deployed during the race.  

"When one of the mechanics put the right-rear wheel back on in the pit-stop the fluid started leaking out so the calliper wasn’t working.  I had to come back in and eventually retire”, said Mitch.  "It would have been interesting to see how we would have gone, but we’ll never know unfortunately.  I was racing with Gasly and Ghiotto who ended up on the podium.  We didn’t have their pace but a top eight finish should have been achievable and realistic.”  

Car trouble struck again before today’s 27 lap sprint race had even begun when Mitch’s engineer noticed on the grid that his right-front brake wasn’t working properly. Despite this, Mitch was making headway, gaining places at the start and another through attrition when Norman Nato and Nabil Jeffri crashed, the latter unable to continue.  It wasn’t long however before tyre wear came into play as anticipated and first King then Markelov took advantage of the struggling Campos driver.   
 
On lap 14 the second yellow flag of the race (Giovinassi spun into the gravel from third), gave Mitch an opportunity to dive into the pits for fresh rubber.  Markelov had the same idea and the two just made it into pit-lane before the VSC was deployed. New tyres made all the difference and the two drivers were picking their way back up the field.  On the penultimate lap Mitch managed to overtake Nobuharu Matsushita, Jimmy Eriksson and King to finish 10th – a solid result considering the lowly starting position and pit-stop.  

"Today was an interesting race and we were struggling a bit.  I made up some places at the start and the first few laps we weren’t too bad, but then I dropped off.  My engineer saw that I had a problem with right -front brake during the five minute wait on the grid; it wasn’t switching on, so I was pulling to the left slightly.  After the first VSC we got a lot of degradation because I don’t think we were generating a lot of heat from the brake into the tyre. We had already talked about pitting if there was a yellow, because if there is a VSC you don’t lose much time – about 6 or 7 seconds – so it’s definitely worth doing if you’re in a bit of strife as you can make up the time.  So that’s what we did ahead of the second VSC.  In the end it was a good call.  We didn’t quite make it into the points, but starting where we were that would have been difficult”, said Mitch of race two.  

"We’re still not where we want to be in terms of car performance.  It doesn’t feel overly strong at the moment and there’re a lot of questions that still need to be answered.  We’re working to try and improve it but at the moment nothing we’re doing seems to be creating any improvement.  Hopefully we can find some answers over the break before Spa (August 26-28).  I’ve always had good results there, so we’ll see what happens.”