Having delighted his Russian Time team with a popular podium finish on home soil, the 20-year old Aucklander went on to complete a solid points-scoring weekend when he finished fourth in Sunday’s sprint race, only narrowly missing out on third place.
The penultimate round of the GP2 season took place at the newly built 5.844km track around the 2014 Winter Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia. With blue skies and perfect weather conditions all weekend, Mitch was quick to make an impression in Friday’s practice session, trading fastest lap times throughout before winding up fifth fastest.
The qualifying session made for some exciting action with the times tumbling as the drivers pushed and explored the boundaries of the new venue. Mitch posted a competitive time early on but couldn’t improve in his final attempt and qualified sixth, 0.411 seconds behind Stoffel Vandoorne who took pole position.
Evans got a good launch off the line in Saturday’s 28-lap feature race overtaking Jolyon Palmer and Arthur Pic but ran wide at the exit of turn 4 and lost a few positions. After a safety car on lap 7, Mitch pitted for prime tyres and when the track was clear again, he fought his way up the field and piled on the pressure on race leader Palmer in the closing laps. Palmer though held on to take the win and secured the GP2 championship title in the process.
"There was a lot going on in the race today,” said Mitch. "I got a good start and our pace seemed pretty quick. It was a good fight with Jolyon, I tried to put him under as much pressure as possible but he didn’t really make any mistakes. Considering our qualifying position yesterday I’m pretty happy with second today also because it’s the team’s home race and it’s great to have been able to give them a podium here in front of all our fans.”
In Sunday morning’s sprint race Mitch got off to another flying start from seventh, climbed up to fourth and settled into the race in fifth position after the first lap. He showed great pace early on and when Colombian driver Julian Leal in fourth got a drive through penalty, Mitch moved up one place closing the gap to Stoffel Vandoorne. He gained another spot when Sergio Canamasas retired from second place with nine laps remaining. Evans and Vandoorne then began to reel in long-time race leader Marco Sorensen and all looked set for a grandstand finish between the three for the win. However, in the closing laps Raffaele Marciello caused a safety car which bunched the field back up. On the restart, a fast-finishing Felipe Nasr was all over the back of Mitch and in the end Evans had to concede the position and settle for fourth.
"I had a great start and made up a few positions but had a massive lock up into turn one on the front left and had to manage a lot of vibration throughout the whole race. In some of the corners the left front gets a pounding and I was losing a few tenths in the big braking zones. I was in survival mode to the end and the safety car ruined it for me a bit. I couldn’t get onto the straight well at the restart and Nasr had good speed and got me on the straight. Another podium would have been nice but it’s been a great weekend for us with good points. The team did a great job with the car and we had good pace and have been very consistent.”
Mitch is now in 4th position with 151 points.
The season finale will take place in Abu Dhabi on October 22/23.
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