#15 Pierre Gasly (FRA – Team Mugen Honda HR-417E)
Qualifying: 4th – Race Grid: 4th – Race Result: 1st
Super Formula championship: 4th – 15 points – after 5 of 9 races
Pierre Gasly and the Mugen Honda team put together an unbeatable package for the fifth race of the Super Formula championship, showing themselves to be the class of the field at Motegi.
It was the first win of the season for Honda and the 21-year-old French could not be happier. "A very good weekend in Motegi, a first victory in Super Formula. It feels amazing," added the Red Bull Junior. "A big thank you to Mugen and to Honda for all the hard work because it took a lot of energy and hard work to get onto the top step. Today the car was just fantastic, we were really fast all the race and we won with 18 seconds in front of P2."
When things are going right
"It's been a very good race and I'm really happy and I really enjoyed driving and racing today. We will always keep pushing to try to have a similar weekend over the next few races."
"It didn't start the best way on Friday with a brake failure in free practice so I could not do any laps and for me that was quite important because for me it was a new track that I had to learn so it wasn't the best start. But we didn't give up, we kept pushing and on Saturday we had a good feeling with the car. We just had to find some little tunings, small improvements for qualifying.
"Then qualifying was quite hectic with the rain. It started like three minutes before the beginning of Quali. We were on slick tyres but in wet conditions, so it was kind of 'survival mode' and we were P5 in Q1."
We were through to Q2 but then there were thunderstorms and Q2 and Q3 couldn't be run and were postponed until Sunday morning. So today we had 10 minutes free practice where the car felt good already and we were second quickest. Then we had Q2 where we were P4 and in Q3 P4 again, less than a tenth from the pole. It was really close, just 2 hundredths from the front row."
So close and a tactical call
"Of course I was disappointed to miss pole for such a margin but it was still a good position to start from for the race."
"For this weekend we had two different compounds, mediums and the softs, we decided to start on the mediums, the three in front of us started on softs and behind me there were also guys on mediums."
Making it work
"I had a good start, fighting for P3 but in the end stayed P4 and tried to keep the pace with the guys ahead who were on the softer compound. The pace was quite good, the degradation was quite low, I was able to manage the tyres. It was pretty good for us we were very strong on the first stint.
We managed to pull quite a big gap to the guy behind on the same strategy and ahead I could see the guys pitting on the softs, changing to mediums. We kept pushing and finally when I came into the box to change I was P2. We put the softs on and still managed to get out ahead of the two guys who had been leading early on."
No doubt in the end
"So we'd had a very good stint on the mediums and with the softs I pushed really hard from the start, managed to overtake for P1 and then with the softs it was just a case of managing the tyres, managing the brakes until the end of the race."
"We had a 13 second gap at 10 laps to the end and we managed to win by 18 seconds so it was just a very strong race. So good to be back after the summer break and be competitive and grab this first victory for Honda this season. It feels very special and we are all even more motivated than ever to keep pushing and focus on the coming races."
The next Super Formula round is at Autopolis on September 10th.