Two fighting performances went unrewarded for Arthur Pic who endured his most frustrating GP2 Series round of the season at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend (August 22-24). Confidence had been high after his breakthrough GP2 victory in Hungary before the summer break, but a freak engine problem in race one subsequently set the tone for a tough outing at the much-loved Belgian Grand Prix venue.
Friday’s qualifying session to decide the grid for Saturday’s Feature Race was an extremely close affair, with less than seven tenths between the pole time and Pic in 12th. The Campos Racing driver’s season has been built around stronger race performances though, and hopes were high of a similar run to the points-paying places.
After remaining dry for both practice and qualifying, Spa’s notoriously fickle weather reared its head as the cars lined up on Saturday afternoon. But while Arthur was able to initially pick up a place, the conditions were ultimately too wet for his car’s engine, which switched itself to safety mode before jamming in first gear.
The problem, which saw him tumble down the order, would have been terminal but for the Safety Car’s intervention one lap later as conditions worsened, before the race was then red flagged completely for 15 minutes.
With the issue fixed during the break, Pic lined up 22nd for the wet restart and set about regaining lost ground. A clever strategy call to pit early, mixed with some daring overtaking moves, helped him scythe his way to 15th by the finish.
Despite battling back through the field, the result still meant the Frenchman faced an uphill struggle to make the top-eight and points during Sunday’s Sprint Race, which would be run in fully dry conditions.
And that task soon became even more difficult when, on the opening lap, Stefano Coletti made contact and pushed Pic wide, dropping him to as low as 23rd place. Again Arthur rallied, but a short sixth gear ensured his straight-line speed wasn’t enough to make much headway and he eventually came home a frustrated 20th.
“I think we should file that under ‘One of those weekends’,” a rueful Pic explained afterwards. “I was really looking forward to Spa, partly because I enjoy the challenge and partly because our confidence was really high after Hungary.
“Qualifying was very tight, with a lot of traffic, and I got stuck behind [Raffaele] Marciello at the last corner on my fastest flying lap. That lost me two or three tenths and a place in the top-eight on the grid for race one. We’ve shown many times already this season that our race pace tends to be stronger and I was really hopeful of making progress. The strange engine problem didn't allow us to show our potential, but at least we had a second chance after the race was stopped. Carving through the field was a lot of fun actually and showed that we never give in.
“But if you have a bad result in race one then that compromises the rest of your weekend too, so we were always up against it today. The incident with Coletti obviously didn’t help, and although I was able to make some progress thereafter our gearing was too short to achieve much more. That’s the last thing you need at a track like Spa. So on paper definitely not the weekend we’d all hoped for, but also not the complete disaster that the results alone might suggest.”
Pic will be hoping his fortunes change when the GP2 Series campaign continues at the high-speed Monza circuit in Italy on September 5-7.
For more information on Arthur Pic please visit www.arthurpic.com