Tech 1 Racing arrived in Monaco with its confidence boosted by its four victories in the Principality and it counted on using its experience to make the most of its potential. In the only free practice session, Neil Verhagen set a very promising sixth-fastest time as his team-mates gradually got up to speed.
Qualifying then decided the grid positions for the weekend’s two races. Verhagen was the only Tech 1 Racing driver in Group A and his best lap was ruined by the intervention of the virtual safety car. Thus, the Red Bull Junior Team driver had to make do with fourth place, less than two-tenths-of-a-second off pole. In the other group, his team-mates met with less success and Alexander Smolyar put on the best performance with a place on the seventh row.
Despite the lack of overtaking opportunities in Monaco the four Tech 1 Racing drivers gave nothing away. Verhagen resisted a double-contact to move up to sixth place scoring his best result of the season. Smolyar failed to score like Frank Bird even though he gained four places. Thomas Neubauer got caught up in the usual first-lap traffic jam and had to pit. He soon gave up any hope of fighting his way up through the field.
On Sunday, Tech 1 Racing again opted for an offensive strategy. Like the previous day Verhagen and Bird gained one and four places respectively. In parallel, Smolyar passed two rivals and finished only half-a-second away from 10th place while Neubauer was again harpooned by an over-optimistic rival.
Thanks to his two points-scoring finishes Verhagen is now just outside the top 10 while Tech 1 Racing has consolidated its fifth place in the teams’ ratings.
“We look on the positive aspects of the weekend even though we suffered because of our qualifying results,” said Sarah Abadie, the Tech 1 Racing team manager. “Neil confirmed that he’s regaining confidence as he put on his best performance in the championship so far this year. He missed out on pole by a hairsbreadth and he also did a much better job of coping with the pressure and gained a place in each race. All he has to do now is to find that tenth-of-a-second that he’s still lacking to be where he should be.
“After his performances in Pau we were expecting a bit more from Alex. As the stakes were much higher he put himself under more pressure and opted for caution. Unfortunately, on a circuit like Monaco you have to give everything and that was obvious in qualifying. But he got back in the rhythm in the races by pulling back two places on Sunday and showed that he still has a lot of room for improvement."
“Thomas’s weekend was compromised from qualifying onwards. In Monaco, more than anywhere else, overtaking is difficult and you’re more vulnerable in the mid-field as he found out on two occasions. Nonetheless, his races show that we were right to put our trust in him as he was lapping in the same times as the leaders. So he must believe in himself as much as we do. Once he’s able to remove all superfluous pressure in qualifying he can get the monkey off his back and really make the most of his potential.
“Frank confirmed his momentum by making a promising start to qualifying. He set a good pace, but made a mistake and clipped the wall on the last lap of his first run. The time it took him to get back to the pits and have repairs carried out meant that he took to the track again with a car that was far from being ideally set up. Although it’s rather frustrating he again showed how he’s progressed by passing four cars in each heat.”
After three consecutive weekends’ racing Tech 1 Racing is going to take full advantage of the month’s break to find its way back to the podium at Monza (30th June-1st July) in the Formula Renault NEC.
“Even if it’s not yet obvious we’re starting our fightback,” summed up Sarah Abadie. “Our drivers are regaining confidence and that gives us many reasons to be optimistic. As the next round of the Eurocup is scheduled for the end of July, we want to take advantage of this long hiatus to build on our progress and restart flat out!”
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