Adrian Quaife-Hobbs brought his GP2 Series campaign to a close with two strong drives through the field in the final rounds in Abu Dhabi this weekend. Storming through from a pit lane start to finish 11th in race one, a return to race pace in race two netted the sixth fastest lap, but broken rear suspension brought his charge to an end just three laps from home.
Undertaking an intensive simulator programme in the six-week break since the last round in Singapore, Quaife-Hobbs arrived at the track for the first time on Monday and was optimistic of rounding out his first GP2 season with a repeat of the form that secured podium finishes in Monaco and Spa, and a maiden series win in Monza.
A brake issue on his 600bhp, four-litre V8 Mecachrome Dallara in free practice on Friday failed to dampen his enthusiasm and confidence ahead of qualifying later that evening, and with new brakes fitted to his Hilmer Motorsport car he headed into the session aiming for a good result. On his second run on new tyres, he flew through the first and second sectors, and was on for a strong grid position until a red flag on the final sector slowed his progress and dropped him down the order.
Despite that the 22 year-old took to the grid for the weekend’s opening race in 17th, determined to put his qualifying disappointment behind him. At the lights a rare mistake from the Briton left him stranded on the grid, and with a second formation lap required was forced to start from the pit lane.
A tremendous charge through the field over the course of the 29 laps, allowed the 2012 AutoGP World Series Champion to carve his way through, and salvage 11th at the flag, to set him up for a potential top ten finish in Sunday morning’s final race of the season.
A superb getaway saw the GP2 rookie gain five places on the run into turn one, entering the corner in sixth place. However the stricken car of Johnny Cecotto ahead required quick-thinking avoidance techniques by the BRDC Superstar, but in the process Quaife-Hobbs hit another car, damaging his front wing and steering.
By mid distance, Quaife-Hobbs has recovered several places and was embroiled in a battle for 15th with Rio Haryanto, his former GP3 rival proving somewhat difficult to pass despite Quaife-Hobbs’ determined efforts. Eventually finding a way past the slower car, Quaife-Hobbs set off after the cars ahead, catching and passing Jake Rozenzweig for 11th on lap 17.
With just three laps remaining Quaife-Hobbs suddenly suffered rear suspension failure, a display of superb car control allowed him to safely pull off the track and into retirement, but brought his hopes of a top ten finish firmly to an end.
“It was a rather frustrating weekend in Abu Dhabi, we had a small brake issue in practice, and in qualifying my fastest lap was destroyed by the red flag, however the car was fast all weekend and I’ve had great fun with Hilmer Motorsport this year,” said Quaife-Hobbs.
“I stalled on the grid in race one, but fought my way back to 11th, and in the second, I had a great start and was up to sixth but had to take avoiding action into turn one, hitting another car which broke my front wing and bent the steering and dropped me to 16th.
“I managed to get back up to 11th but my rear upright broke three laps from home, race over! It’s not the way I wanted to end my first season in GP2, as we had some really solid results during the year, and it would have been nice to finish on a high.”