[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ritish racer Jordan King on Sunday secured an historic maiden GP2 victory after a high-pressure, wet-weather charge from pole position in the series’ second race in Austria.
On the morning of the Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix, the 22-year old, who’s in his second season with Spanish squad Racing Engineering, held off the challenge from highly rated fellow Brits Oliver Rowland and Alex Lynn to become the 11th British driver to win a GP2 race since the series’ inception in 2005. And by doing so he’s added his name to a list that includes triple world champion Lewis Hamilton.
“It’s fantastic,” King says. “What a relief! I set myself a target of winning races in year two – there are no excuses when you know the team, the car, the tracks and the form. The team did a great job this weekend; the car was mighty, especially in the wet.”
The weekend started in a promising fashion for the Warwickshire man, who last year won a coveted FIA Academy ‘Young Driver Excellence’ award.
“I was pretty confident heading to the Red Bull Ring,” King admits. “I went well there last year, taking second-fastest lap in race two, so things looked good for my second visit.
“The speed was there once we sorted a few technical niggles and I went fastest in practice before dropping to third by the end of the session.”
Come the all-important qualifying session to decide grid positions for Saturday’s 40-lap feature race with a compulsory pitstop, King was left wanting more.
“I was a bit annoyed, we didn’t show our true potential,” he says. “The supersoft (option) tyre lacked a bit of feel and I hit traffic at the wrong moment. I think P6 was definitely on the cards.”
King started the race from 13th, from where he “knew he could make progress”
As predicted, the Manor F1 development driver moved through the field having made a good start.
“It was looking good for a decent result and I was managing the tyres well. And then it rained. The safety car came out so we took the opportunity to dive into the pits for wets. Sadly, the rain stopped, so we had to pit again to go back onto slicks. It was just one of those things. We misjudged it.”
King eventually finished 10th, earning himself a championship point. Crucially, after post-race penalties had been applied to the two drivers ahead of him, he was moved up to eighth, which meant four points and reversed-grid pole for the following day’s 28-lap sprint race.
“And I loved every minute of it,” is King’s succinct appraisal of a day on which he would enter the record books.
“I made another superb start and got my head down. I had to keep my cool when the safety car bunched us all up for a lap. That was my five-second lead eradicated in an instant! The team did a great job on the radio of keeping me abreast of what [Oliver] Rowland was doing behind. I pushed a bit more when I needed to extend the gap a bit more.
“At one point, the team asked me on the radio whether I wanted to pit for slicks as it was drying up. ‘No, no!’ I fired back! I felt I could manage them for the rest of the race, and did just that.”
With no further drama, King reeled off the remaining laps to lead home Rowland by six seconds – a huge margin by GP2 standards.
“This feels really special,” GP2’s newest winner said afterwards. “I must thank the team for giving me a great car today that enabled me to take this victory. It’s been a slightly up-and-down start to the season, and this win will give everyone in the garage a confidence boost.”
As a result of his 21-point tally in Austria, King moves from 11th to ninth in the Drivers’ Championship, with just 11 points separating him from second-placed man Mitch Evans, who won the first race at the Red Bull Ring.
This weekend, the GP2 circus moves to Silverstone, home race for King. He’s relishing the chance to race in front of British fans at a venue where he excelled in 2015.
“I can’t wait,” he says. “We’ve got lots of momentum and it’s always a huge boost to race at your home circuit. I’ll have sponsors, family and friends there, too, which will make it even more special. I hope we can put in another great performance there.”