The Toulouse-based squad took to the track on Thursday and enjoyed a productive practice session led by Red Bull driver, Neil Verhagen. At the same time, his team-mates used the session to discover or rediscover the English circuit and accumulated precious data.
Verhagen was firmly installed in the top 10 before Q1, but was unable to pursue his momentum at the decisive moment of the session. Alexander Smolyar and Frank Bird took up the running and finished in the top 5 in their respective groups. While the English driver was tagged on the first lap, the Russian from the SMP Racing programme made light of the penalty inflicted on him at Monza and quickly fought his way up into the points before giving way to his team-mate, Verhagen, who had started in 22nd place.
On Sunday, Smolyar upped the pace starting and finishing seventh after a well-driven race. Bird was again among the top 10 on the grid, but was the collateral victim of a lot of pushing and shoving in the field at the start. Verhagen made another scintillating comeback after his off in qualifying. The American pulled back 15 places and finished just outside the points while Thomas Neubauer was involved in a collision.
“We had the potential this weekend but lacked success,” was how Sarah Abadie, the Tech 1 Racing team manager judged the weekend. “It was the case for Neil on Saturday morning after his promising practice sessions. In Q2 he also lost his two fastest laps, one for not respecting the track limits and the other for causing a red flag. Despite this, his hard-charging comebacks up through the pack show that he’s got his mojo back. It bodes well for the rest of the season.
“Alexander continues his encouraging debut for a rookie. The more his confidence grows the more he can make the most of his potential. He had two good qualifying sessions progressing from one day to the next even though the red flag in Q2 did him no favours as a single flying lap decided the outcome. He set excellent times in the races before scoring big points on Sunday. This result should boost his confidence for the upcoming rounds.
“Thomas failed to make the most of his weekend. His performance and consistency were a bit below what we were expecting and it cost him dearly on this circuit. Despite this, he must pursue his efforts. In certain phases of the first race he set times worthy of the top five; we’ll have to deepen our work with him to help him to reproduce this form over the whole weekend.
“Frank was racing on home turf and he made a big impression on us. He was very much on the pace and made constant progress as well as putting on superb performances in both qualifying sessions. He was in the top 10 on two occasions and could have done even better in Q2. Unfortunately, his two races were both ruined on the first lap by collisions of which he was the innocent victim. We hope he’ll enjoy more success and reap the rewards he deserves starting this weekend in Monaco.
“We had the potential,” summed up Sarah. “Despite our lack of success in Pau and at Silverstone, we’ve got every confidence in our overall level of performance before heading to Monaco where we‘ve achieved great results in all the categories. We generally do very well on city circuits and we know the potential of our package and our drivers.”
Smolyar is the highest placed in the drivers’ championship, and Tech 1 Racing is still in fifth place in the teams’ ratings before heading off to Monte Carlo to take part in one of the curtain-raisers before the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix.
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