Formula Renault 3.5 Series driver Arthur Pic experienced mixed fortunes at the Nurbürgring as two impressive qualifying performances and a strong run to fourth in Saturday's opening race were tempered by a DNF in Sunday's second event. Despite perhaps feeling some frustration at not realising his ultimate potential, the young Frenchman can take a number of positives from the German event with Saturday's result vaulting him into the top-10 of the fiercely competitive championship. Pic also strengthened his growing reputation as a qualifying specialist, adding a pair of second row starts to the brace of pole positions he scored in the season-opening trip to Spain.
This pace saw the Montélimar native enjoy a successful Saturday qualifying session when he pumped in a blistering late lap of 1m41.431s to leap from the fringes of the top-10 to third spot with just moments left on the clock. Come the afternoon's race, Pic slipped to P4 at the start but remained in close contact with the podium spots throughout while building a commanding gap over the pursuing Kevin Magnussen. Despite a concerted effort to overhaul third-placed Robin Frijns he would come home fourth, just a second shy of the final rostrum spot.
The DAMS pilot continued this form by producing another strong showing in Sunday morning’s second qualifying session, topping the timesheets with just two minutes remaining before an ill-timed red flag and a flurry of late laps saw him shuffled down the order. But Pic was the last man over the line to begin his final timed run and went on to set the fastest opening two sectors, seemingly heading for a third pole position of the campaign. Frustratingly traffic during the final kilometre scuppered his hopes of claiming P1, though he still managed a highly competitive 1m40.417s to book a spot on the second row.
After starting fourth Pic remained on slick tyres in the rain-hit early stages of Sunday’s race, dropping him behind those who’d switched to wets. When conditions improved he immediately began to cut through the pack as he produced lap times on a par with the leaders. The Frenchman had made his way into the top-10 when he took his mandatory stop and fitted another set of dry tyres.
He climbed the order once more before the rain returned just as Pic started a new lap. With tyres unsuited to the conditions, the DAMS driver suffered an off-track excursion that brought what had looked set to be another points-paying finish to a premature conclusion.
Arthur Pic: “After a difficult Friday the car’s true pace shone through on Saturday when I took third in qualifying. I lost one position after a poor start to the race to run fourth and, as overtaking is almost impossible at this circuit, I remained there until the finish. However I set the second best time during the race which shows how good was our pace was.
“In Sunday's qualifying I was one of several cars who had just put fresh tyres on when the red flag fell, which was unfortunate as rather than three laps I only got two. With one more I’m pretty sure the front row was achievable, but I was happy with fourth on the grid. Two second row starts from two sessions confirms we have great potential in the dry.
"With rain falling on the first lap of the race the safety car was deployed, prompting some drivers to come in for wets. I stayed on slicks and, at the restart, those with treaded rubber had a huge advantage. However as soon as it started drying I was able to gain positions before taking my mandatory stop and coming back out in 14th. I started climbing the order again and was up to eighth when the rain returned. This came at the worst possible time for me as I was just starting a new lap! As such I had to do a full tour before changing tyres and unfortunately couldn't make it back to the pits.
“Obviously it is a shame, but there are plenty of positives to take from this weekend, particularly the points we scored and our pace in the dry. In two weeks we will be racing on a brand new circuit in Russia and I'm really looking forward to that.”
Pic leaves Germany eighth in the ultra competitive Formula Renault 3.5 Series and looking forward to the next event at Russia’s Moscow Raceway (July 14/15) for what will be the championship’s maiden visit to the country. Here he will be hoping to continue his fine qualifying form as well as adding further points to his 2012 tally.