"For a moment it felt good, I thought it was fine. Then I couldn’t pull the car up and ran wide. I just didn’t anticipate how low the grip was on the inside line.” explained Evans. "It was my mistake, and it was a shame; but I had a crack at leading. I just wish I could have the chance to start again…”
"I’m disappointed in myself. If I’d made it through the first corner, even in second place, we had the pace to win. A lot of things then went wrong in the race – it just wasn’t meant to be – but the pace was there. It was another missed opportunity.”
The speed Evans showed a week ago at Silverstone was carried forward to the Nurburgring for the fifth round. In Friday practice he was third fastest and in qualifying the 19-year-old snatched fourth quickest time to line up on the inside of the second row.
Evans had good traction off the line and as the three cars ahead of him on the grid moved left and juggled for position, the New Zealander was presented with a clear run on the tighter inside line.
He avoided locking his brakes but carried too much speed into the tightening apex and had to run deep into the runoff area on the outside of the corner. As he struggled to regain the track, he was swamped by the chasing pack and plummeted to 20thposition at the end of a dramatic first lap.
A frightening mid-pack crash at the start had brought out the safety car at the end of the opening lap. When the field was eventually unleashed, Evans set about his recovery. The Arden team’s strategy of starting on the hard tyre and running deep into the race before making their compulsory pit stop, began to look on target.
As the race leaders stopped to change tyres, Evans stayed out and regained the lead on lap 20. He was at the front for three laps before diving into the pits to switch to a set of the softer compound tyres.
The intention was to challenge for eighth place during the second stint which could have given Evans pole position for the reverse top eight Sprint race on Sunday. However, the car toppled off the front jacklift during the tyre change and the team lost 15 seconds as mechanics had to lift the car by hand.
Evans dropped down to 20thplace when he rejoined and, in spite of losing more time when he ran wide off the circuit, he fought back to finish 16th. It was a bitter disappointment for Evans who has now led the Feature race at the last three rounds of the GP2 Series.
Marcus Ericsson’s own run of disappointment this season was swept aside by a dominant drive to victory at the Nurburgring. The Swede edged away from his rivals and in spite of the early safety car intervention, he won by almost 8 seconds from James Calado and Stefano Coletti.
The result was set up at the start when Ericsson got off the line better than poleman and teammate Stéphane Richelmi, who bogged down. That gave Mitch Evans his clear run at the first turn. When the New Zealander ran too deep it gave the lead back to Ericsson, with Richelmi, Felipe Nasr and Robin Frijns behind him.
They were all soon slowed as the safety car came out on track: Daniel Abt and Nathanaël Berthon squeezed Kevin Ceccon between them to avoid the stalled Adrian Quaife Hobbs. Ceccon pitched into a roll before coming to rest against the car of Quaife Hobbs. With the cars removed, the race resumed on lap 4, with little change at the front.
Nasr came in to change his super softs on lap 6, coming out 23rdas Ericsson set a string of fastest laps, forcing everyone to make a decision. Frijns and Calado came in two laps later, with Ericsson having to cover them by pitting on the next lap. His teammate Richelmi stayed out for a few more laps to take over the lead and run the alternate strategy.
The Brazilian’s gamble soon looked like a losing hand as he dropped back to his rivals as the laps ticked down: Calado got by on lap 17 and Frijns forced his way by two laps later. Coletti used his fresh tyres to sneak by countryman Richelmi on lap 25 and Nasr next time round.
With the clock ticking down to zero, Ericsson romped away as Calado told the pits his tyres were finished. The pair finally crossed the line 7.8 seconds apart, but all eyes were on the battle behind them.
Coletti closed on Frijns and pushed inside at the final chicane, with the pair touching as the points leader squeezed through for a podium finish. Richelmi was slowed just enough for Fabio Leimer to sneak into fourth as Frijns fell back to sixth at the final corner.