One of the stars of last season’s GP3 Series, Mitch Evans began his 2012 campaign in perfect style with a stylish victory for MW Arden in the opening race of the year in Barcelona.
The 17-year-old New Zealander moved up from fourth to third at the start, then assumed the race lead after rivals Daniel Abt (Lotus) and Antonio Felix da Costa (Carlin) were handed drive-through penalties for jumping the start. Evans’s rhythm was broken on lap nine, when the safety car was dispatched to allow Ocean driver Kevin Ceccon’s stranded car to be recovered, but he restarted cleanly and pulled away to finish 2.6s clear of Marlon Stockinger (Status GP).
Evans’s success was the highlight of a fine race for MW Arden, with new signings Matias Laine and David Fumanelli driving strong races to finish fifth and ninth.
“Practice was rather average – I was snared by yellow flags on three separate occasions, so couldn’t push for a while. When the track finally cleared, I pushed too hard and then encountered traffic, so I don’t think my sixth place reflected my potential and hoped those problems would not recur.
“The car felt good in qualifying, although there were more yellow flags during the first few laps. I was able to trade fastest times with da Costa once the track went green and I was on top halfway through the session. I didn’t make any set-up changes and thought I could get more from the car, but I made a couple of mistakes on what should have been my fastest lap and that cost me about two tenths, so I had to settle for fourth.
“My race plan was to make the best start I could and take things from there. I got away well and was third into Turn One, but both guys ahead had apparently jumped the start and ended up with penalties. That was fortunate from my perspective, but I felt very comfortable and the car was good, so I was able to control the pace once I was in the lead. The safety car then came out – another potential obstacle – but I restarted cleanly and was able to push for a couple of laps, which enabled me to build up a reasonable lead.
“The team worked really hard during the winter and the guys made my job reasonably easy by giving me such a good car. For tomorrow, I will press on from eighth on the grid and hopefully score a few points.”
“I didn’t do too many laps in free practice, because the car felt fine and I saw no need to make major changes. I just wanted to make sure it was as good as it could possibly be. Most of my qualifying lap was reasonable, but I dropped three tenths in Turn One and that pushed me back to ninth. It was my error, though, so I have nobody else to blame.
“In the race, I made a fantastic start and the car felt good from start to finish, so i owe a vote of thanks to the team. I was happy to make good progress, which earned me good points and a better grid position for tomorrow.”
“It has been good to start the season like this. My car was set up very well and that put me in a confident frame of mind for qualifying. It was a tough session, though, with the top 10 drivers covered by five tenths. I had bad luck with yellow flags and traffic – otherwise, I’m sure I could have qualified in the top four.
“The race was tough, too. I had a chassis imbalance from the start and found it difficult to attack or defend. After the first few laps my pace improved, but the balance deteriorated slightly after the restart. With two laps to go, though, I was lying eighth when I made a mistake at the exit of the final chicane and one of the Jenzer cars passed me. That’s a shame, because it cost me pole position for race two, but I’m still pleased to score points on my GP3 debut. Tomorrow, I’m confident that we’ll be able to improve the balance and make good progress from ninth.”