MP Motorsport began its new era as a GP2 Series entrant at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia over the weekend, 23rd/24th March, with a competitive team performance and a best result of 13th place for rising talent Daniël De Jong.
Running as part of the FIA Formula One World Championship’s Malaysian Grand Prix event, the first two rounds of the season offered a mixed outcome for the Dutch squad – De Jong and team-mate Adrian Quaife-Hobbs bouncing back from unfortunate race one contact to deliver encouraging race two performances.
De Jong started the event very impressively in practice with the 11th fastest time, within just 0.6 seconds of the pace, while Quaife-Hobbs was 22nd, but in qualifying the 2012 AUTO GP Champion headed the MP Motorsport charge by securing 14th on the grid for race one with De Jong 20th.
Unfortunately, hopes of a strong debut race in GP2 for British category rookie Quaife-Hobbs went awry on only the third lap of the opener on Saturday while dicing with De Jong. Attempting to slice up the inside at Turn 15, Quaife-Hobbs’ car made contact with the Dutchman’s and the pair were both forced to retire.
Seeking to make amends for the Feature Race incident during Sunday’s ‘Sprint’ event, Quaife-Hobbs was able to negotiate several incidents on the opening lap to impressively climb from 25th on the grid into the top 16 where he remained for the first seven laps.
De Jong, though, enjoyed an even better start and scythed through the order from 23rd into 13th position by the end of lap one as he too avoided the collisions. At the halfway point, De Jong held his place on the cusp of the top 12 with Quaife-Hobbs in 17th place.
Although the MP Motorsport racers lost one position each shortly after, De Jong produced a great pass on Sergio Canamasas at the last hairpin on lap 18 and fended off the Spaniard as he attempted to fight back. On the penultimate lap though, Marcus Ericsson managed to edge the MP driver back to 14th having already got ahead of Quaife-Hobbs several laps before.
Taking the chequered flag on lap 22 in 14th position, De Jong was only three seconds shy of the top 10 to cap a strong outing while Quaife-Hobbs took 17th in the end, roughly five seconds further back from his team-mate.
“Both guys had good speed in race two, it’s always difficult starting so far back but they both did a good job”, commented team principal Sander Dorsman, “Daniël missed the boat a bit in qualifying, it wasn’t where he should be – I really think he and Adrian can both be further up near that top 10.
“We have to be realistic, GP2 is so competitive and there are so many experienced teams so it takes time to be as competitive as some of those guys. I’m happy Sunday was a lot better than Saturday though, everyone is learning a lot and I’m sure Bahrain will be better for the team.”
Rounds three and four of the 2013 GP2 Series are scheduled to take place four weeks from now, on 20th/21st April, at the Sakhir Circuit in Bahrain.