Along with the DAMS team it’s made us all feel a lot better for ourselves, particularly as this is the first win for DAMS in GP3 in what is the rookie season for me and the team.
That was especially nice because the first part of the weekend was eerily similar to the previous round in Hungary. We were seventh in free practice, only three tenths off the pace despite only managing one lap on the soft tyres, so I was feeling confident. But then just like in Budapest we weren’t quick enough in qualifying, and I ended up 12th. It’s bizarre, but we just weren’t switching the tyres on whereas in practice we were. We’re missing something there, although we’re getting closer to fixing it.
I had a bad start to race one – I’m going to have to do a lot of work on my starts in the summer break before the next round at Spa. I haven’t found the correct rhythm and coordination with the hand clutch. Then I got pushed wide at the hairpin and accidentally knocked the engine into safety mode briefly, so I was 15th.
There were some incidents ahead and I did some overtaking to get me up to ninth. In GP3, eighth is reversed-grid pole so I really needed to make up at least one place. I got ahead of Artur Janosz with a good move into Turn 8 and now I was chasing my team-mate Santino Ferrucci for seventh. But up behind us came Arjun Maini…
Maini had so much pace, and I just couldn’t keep him behind. But then he battled with Santino and that gave me one last chance. I sent it around the outside at the hairpin, touched wheels with Santino and came out in front – crucially in eighth place.
'That gave me pole for Sunday's race, and I made a better start but it still wasn't good enough to keep the lead. Straight away though I knew I was quicker.'
That gave me pole for Sunday's race, and I made a better start but it still wasn't good enough to keep the lead. Straight away though I knew I was quicker. On lap 2, Arjun made a mistake at Turn 2 and that gave me a chance. Just as I pulled ahead on the next straight the virtual safety car was called, and that put me under investigation by the stewards. Correctly they decided I was already ahead – and luckily my engineer didn't tell me about the investigation so I was blissfully unaware!
After that Charles Leclerc got up to second but I managed to pull away, setting fastest lap as well. That showed me what we are capable of, beating the driver's championship leader on a level playing field. It's a confirmation to me and the team of what we can achieve if we keep this up for the remainder of the season.
Next up is Spa at the end of August. I've had some great moments there, including a Formula Renault Eurocup win last year. With the team we've just got to work to fix our qualifying pace, and I've personally got to work on my starts. And if we can sort those we'll be fighting for wins every weekend – I can't wait!
Right now though it's the summer break – I'm going to chill out a bit and so I wish everyone a good holiday.