The GP2 Series season got underway at the Circuit de Catalunya (13-15 May) for the first of eleven race weekends in the 2016 calendar.
The Arden International team had a tough start to the season as rookies Nabil Jeffri and Jimmy Eriksson struggled to find space for a good clean lap each in the 30minute Qualifying session; resulting in Jimmy starting nineteenth and Nabil twentieth for Race 1.
Luck did not lend its hand to the Arden duo. Despite a good start for Jimmy, he was pushed wide on his attack into turn 1 losing momentum. Any progress the Swede made, he was up to sixteenth, was hampered by the second safety car on lap 23 of the race, as Sergey Sirotkin (ART) spun at turn 2. Jimmy was unable to close the gap to his contenders, losing out on any chance to attack in the final minutes. He crossed the line in seventeenth. Nabil had an equally tough race. The Malaysian stalled off the start, leaving him chasing the entire field from the beginning. Nabil pitted on lap 24 for the option tyres and ran on to finish nineteenth.
A start from the latter half of the field is always a hard task and for the Arden drivers, it did not present any opportunity to advance in the field. Starting in the positions they finished in race 1, Nabil finished eighteenth and Jimmy nineteenth.
Nabil Jeffri, Car 24:
“I think overall it was a good weekend. In my first experience of a GP2 Series race weekend it went as well as I could have expected. We spent some time here in the pre-season testing so I had the knowledge of the track but being a rookie this year, there is still a lot to learn. The overall target was to finish the races and we met this target. I did feel like I improved from race 1 to race 2 which is also a positive point. I am looking forward to getting out to Monaco, which will be a whole new approach and again, experience, but an amazing opportunity to race at such a historic circuit!”
Jimmy Eriksson, Car 25:
“In Qualifying the first run felt good - I was p12. We went out for the second run but I got caught up in too much traffic in my build laps, so I didn’t manage to find a good space and get into a rhythm and warming my tyres and brakes didn’t come into play. For the push lap, these elements weren’t up to temperature. I was on the option tyres and everyone knows that trying to push a second lap on these, it’s too late, they’re already gone. Everyone else improved on their second set on the second run of tyres, so I lost to p19.
Race 1 was unfortunate, it just didn’t work out. My start was good - we can do better but it was better than the average on the grid. I made up some positions into turn 1 and was on the outside when someone on the inside missed the corner, so I had to move over which affected my momentum going into turn 2 and 3. So the positions I gained at the start, I lost again. I did overtake Mitch Evans on lap 1 which was important as he was running option tyres too, so it was good to get in front of him. We had the pit stop and then the safety car came out. When it was the safety car re-start I was unable to close the gap to the guys ahead of me, due a backmarker, so lost about 5seconds to Artur Pic (Rapax) in front. It would have cost me on tyres to push this early so I managed the tyres better by keeping the distance. This worked well as the last three laps I could match the lap times from Pic & Evans, so the gap started to close. However, we ran out of time. I think we had the potential to finish twelfth, as there were no mistakes or disasters.
My start was good in Race 2 and I gained a couple of positions straight away. I then had to avoid a driver that had stalled and came out over the grass and lost all the speed and those positions I had made. Later in the race I managed to overtake two cars and then followed Norman Nato (Racing Engineering) for the rest of the race until it finished behind the safety car.”