For the second time this season, the GP2 circuit returned to Bahrain which replaced the cancelled German round earlier in the year. The race coincided with the penultimate round of the World Endurance Championship with all sessions taking place a day early.
Mitch got some good running in practice on Thursday morning and finished 15thin a tightly matched field. The weather turned for the qualifying session in the afternoon and under grey skies and higher humidity Mitch qualified in 7th.
In the feature race on Saturday, Mitch worked his way up the field and an early pit stop put him ahead of Italian driver Raffaele Marciello who ran in second. American Alexander Rossi, who had rapidly moved up behind Mitch, closed in to battle for position and the two drivers made contact at Turn 3 when Rossi clipped the back of the Russian Time car which damaged his front wing and forced him to pit.
Nobuharu Matsushita, who had subsequently moved into third, put the pressure on Mitch in the closing laps of the race. The Kiwi managed to stay outside of the DRS range but a slow puncture from the earlier incident with Rossi slowed his pace and the Japanese driver made quick work to overtake him, leaving Mitch to finish third.
‘I was the first out of the medium group to pit, so I got the undercut,’ said Mitch. ‘Our pace on the option was quite solid but I always had it in the back of my mind that I was going to have to eek it out to the end when I got more degradation. Rossi hit me in the back and ruined his own race. I was lucky because, although I didn’t realise it at the time, I suffered a slow puncture. The team did a great job with the strategy, which ultimately gave us the podium.’
Mitch got a sluggish start off the line from sixth in Sunday’s 23-lap sprint race and dropped a couple of places. However, it paid dividends as those ahead of him all had a coming together and Mitch slotted into third behind Stoffel Vandoorne. A collision further back down the field caused the safety car to be deployed. The race resumed in lap 3 and Mitch closed in on Vandoorne, passing him a few laps later for second. The young Kiwi kept up a great pace and reduced the gap to race leader Alex Lynn.
After a few attempts to get past, he finally sealed the deal on lap 14 and moved into the lead to take his second race victory of the season
‘I was lucky with the carnage at the start and not to get collected by Nobu and managed to get straight into third. The pace felt quite good after the safety car. I was expecting Stoffel to be a bit quicker off the start and I wasn’t sure if he was struggling or saving tyres but I was ready to go, put the pressure on and got by him. I pulled out a gap and was catching Alex who started to struggle a bit. I passed him and wanted to pull out a bit of a buffer without using too much of the tyre. In the last few laps Stoffel closed in again but I managed to stay in front.’
‘This has been a bit of a bogey track for us and for me and it’s good to get two podiums here this weekend which I wasn’t expecting after practice and qualifying. We made a few tweaks overnight and they seemed to work. I had a good balance and the guys did a great job in giving me a car to be able to fight for the win.’
Mitch is now in fifth in the Championship standings with 120 points ahead of the last round of the 2015 GP2 season which takes place in Abu Dhabi 28/29 November.