It was a cool start to the race weekend with only 16 degrees C track temperature in Friday’s practice session where Russian Time driver Mitch Evans came tenth.
In afternoon’s qualifying the team tried a few different things on the hard tyres to improve the car but it was on the medium tyre that Mitch managed to put in a good lap in the last few minutes of the session to qualify third, two tenths behind Stoffel Vandoorne who claimed pole and Jolyon Palmer in second: ‘The car felt better than in the morning. I made a mistake in my first lap and lost a bit of time there, but I knew there was more in it with my second lap. Qualifying wasn’t our strength in the last few races so it’s great to be on the second row today,’ said Mitch.
Saturday’s feature race got off to a chaotic start and as soon as the lights went off it poured down with rain. Mitch had a great getaway off the line climbing up to second ahead of Johnny Cecotto. With the ever-increasing rain the race was eventually red flagged after Conor Daly spun off track causing a safety car.
The rain eased off and the race was restarted 15 minutes later with Mitch sitting in sixth. After the safety car came in he was overtaken by Simon Trummer but stayed on his heels with the pair catching Berthon in P5. Trummer and Berthon made contact forcing Trummer to pit while Berthon was given a drive through penalty for his part in the incident leaving Mitch in fifth which he brought home ahead of Palmer.
‘I started in P3, got up to second and was behind Vandorne when the safety car came out at the start of the second lap. The rain cooled the engine down too much forcing it into safety mode in which it was stuck for half a lap and I got passed by pretty much everyone. When the race was red flagged, I thought I was going to be back in P2 but I was actually down in P6 as that’s where I was when I crossed the line before the race was stopped. When the race was resumed, there was a lot of water on the track but it eventually dried out and we got quicker.
Considering what happened, I had a pretty good race. We didn’t have the pace to win but a podium would have been achievable,’ the 20-year old Aucklander summarised on Saturday. The weather improved for Sunday morning’s sprint race with a partly damp track but no rain. Mitch who started in fourth from a wet grid slot, didn’t get the best launch, fell back in the ranks and managed to move up into sixth halfway through the race. In the final two laps of the race, Mitch closed the 3 second gap to Daniel Abt overtaking him on the final run up Eau Rouge and was catching up with Jolyon Palmer but ran out of laps in the end and had to settle for fourth.
‘I had a slippery start and made contact with Cecotto and my team mate,’ said Mitch after the race. ‘I thought the front wing was damaged but it turned out all right. I tried to save my tyres for the end of the race when we had a strong pace. It didn’t quite work out to get on the podium today and yesterday, but we had a great car all weekend and we’ve scored some solid points here.’
Mitch is now in 5th position with 110 points.
Round 9 takes place in Monza, Italy on September 6/7.
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