This weekend, Sacha Fenestraz had his first taste of GP3 on the Sochi circuit. The Renault Sport Academy driver gathered precious experience in an environment, which was totally new to him, in view of the forthcoming events.
THE WEEK-END ROUND UP
In the single free practice session, first of all Fenestraz found his marks on the circuit and then progressively whittled down his lap times. The Renault Sport Academy driver was among those who spent the most time on the track. In his second run he set a time that gave him a place just outside the top 10, only one-tenth-of-a-second slower than the quickest of his team-mates.
Sacha’s first real test came in qualifying in the late afternoon. Once again the Franco-Argentinean progressively improved his times before shodding his second set of tyres, which often prove decisive. In a hotly-contested field whose drivers were well honed in finding the sweet spot to get the best out of the tyres, he clinched a place on the seventh row two-tenths-of-a-second outside the top 10.
He was in 13th place on the grid for his first start in the GP3 category. He made a hesitant getaway and finished the first lap in 17th place before getting past his team-mate, Gabriel Aubry. The FFSA Equipe de France driver launched an attack on Devlin De Francesco and discovered the workings of the DRS, but he was repassed by his fellow-countryman before the two drivers overtook the Canadian and Ryan Tveter. In the closing laps Jannes Fittje sneaked past him to grab 15th spot.
Fenestraz was in 16th place on the grid and when the lights went out he was a little too cautious and lost two positions. But he fought back and gained four places in the following three laps. He put on an offensive display of driving in the mid-field pack and never gave up trying to overtake his rivals. His attacks finally bore fruit with four laps to go to the finish when he managed to move up to 13th place.
“It was really all new to me this weekend. When I arrived on Friday I didn’t know the car, the tyres, the circuit or the team. I had to learn and progress as quickly as possible in the only free practice session although I knew that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to test the limits. In qualifying the first flying lap with the second set of tyres is often the most important. Unfortunately, I made a mistake so I could have done better. I was very surprised by the degradation, which happened very early on in the race. But it helped me to learn about tyre management, especially those on the rear on this circuit. However, it was difficult to match the pace of the most experienced drivers. On Sunday, I did a better job managing this aspect as I had more speed in the closing laps, and this helped me fight my way up to 13thplace. I gained a lot of experience this weekend, but I’ve still got a lot to learn about the Pirellis. That’ll only come with practice and I’m going to analyse this aspect down to the tiniest details to do better in Abu Dhabi.”
Free practice: 12th – 1m 54.096sec
Qualifying: 13th – 1m 53.453sec
Grid position Race 1: 13th
Race 1: 16th
Grid position Race 2: 16th
Race 2: 13th