#15 Pierre Gasly (FRA – Team Mugen Honda HR-417E)
Qualifying 1: 8th – Race Grid: 8th – Race Result: 5th
Super Formula championship: 8th – 5 points – after 4 of 9 races
Pierre Gasly demonstrated considerably more pace with a hard fought fifth at the Fuji Speedway. The Red Bull Junior continues to get more from his Super Formula Team Mugen Honda, the 21-year-old Frenchman almost snatched fourth on the line and was the first Honda driver home.
"It's been a positive weekend overall. In Free Practice I didn't feel so good with the car straight away but we worked on it and found some interesting, pretty good directions in terms of set up, so it was much better for qualifying. Coming to Fuji we knew that it would be quite difficult, it's the longest straight of the season, so we knew that the Toyotas would be strong."
Fast enough to be further forward
"Qualifying was pretty good, we made it into Q3. I was third in Q2, the car felt pretty good, we just wanted to improve it for the last run in Q3 but unfortunately there was a misunderstanding between the engineer and the mechanic, we had to make a change on the front anti-roll bar and the mechanic did the opposite of what we should have done. "
"That made it quite difficult and we also had a floor problem so we had a big loss of downforce in Q3 so in the end we were P8. That was OK but a shame as I think we had the potential to be in the top five but still a decent position to start for the race."
A fine race
"I had a decent start, I didn't overtake anyone but going into turn one I saw many guys on the inside so I tried to brake really late on the outside and managed to overtake two cars in turn one. So went from P8 to P6 in lap one."
"Then after with the warm conditions we knew it would be difficult for the tyres but the pace was pretty good on the first run. We just kept with the leading group, with the Toyotas, we then hit some degradation after 15 laps so we decided to pit early, I think around lap 20. The race was like 55 laps so just before the middle of the race."
"So after I went out from the pit we had lost a position to Lotterer and I was behind a group with Lotterer, Nakajima and Sekiguchi and I caught the group, overtook Nakajima for P5 and then was behind Sekiguchi. We had a tough battle for the last 15 laps."
A great finish
"It was actually quite exciting but I couldn't find my way past. Really difficult to overtake the Toyotas in the straight. Tried everything but just didn't manage to do it. Even out of the final corner, maximising the exit I tried to get him on the line but just missed the fourth place, a really close finish."
"Still a top five finish and first Honda so it's pretty good, last time seventh and top Honda so we are making some good improvements. There is still room for improvement, we will keep pushing. I still don't feel as comfortable as in testing but I can see we are making steps forwards. We have one and half months to focus on the next round in Motegi and an even better result."