#15 Pierre Gasly (FRA – Team Mugen Honda HR-417E)
Qualifying: 3rd – Race Grid: 3rd – Race Result: 2nd
Super Formula championship: 2nd – 33 points – after 7 of 9 races
Pierre Gasly put in another brilliant Super Formula race at Sugo in Japan. The Red Bull Junior finished second by just 0.243 seconds and is just half a point off the championship lead.
"Another great weekend in Sugo," explained the 21-year-old Frenchman. "A new track for me, a bit of a crazy Japanese track, pretty old school, no run off, walls just five metres off the track, it makes it quite exciting."
Improving all the way
"For practice we just had some old tyres from the last race and others had new tyres so we just concentrated on ourselves and what we were doing. We knew the times would not be so fantastic but we concentrated on getting the car set up sorted."
"In qualy of course we put on new tyres and the car felt very different in the beginning. We improved the car with each run, between the runs in Q1 and again for Q2 and it went very well. I felt better in the car. I was P6 in Q2 and again we made changes and in Q3 I managed to do my best lap in Super Formula so far and that put us P3. The only Honda in Q3 lost in the middle of all the Toyotas," he added with his usual broad smile.
Fighting all the way
"In the race this time we only had one compound which was the medium. There was no mandatory pit stop but if we were to make it without stopping we would have to save hugely on fuel, we couldn't make it really without stopping for fuel.
"We knew that it is a short track virtually impossible to overtake, the straights are really short. So the start was crucial and the strategy as well. "
"I had a great start again, starting P3 and I got to P2, side to side with P1 into turn one but I was on the outside so could not make the move into the lead. After that the pace was good for ten laps and then we started to have some brake problems with huge locking front and rear. It was actually pretty bad because the air temperature was up. I tried to save a bit the brakes, brake with less pressure, to do what I could. I lost a bit of time to Sekiguchi who was leading and I had Nakajima behind me."
Playing it cool
"After about 30 laps, like mid race, the air temperature started to go down, it got a bit more cloudy, the car felt better, the brakes as well so I could push again. Performance was good, I think I Was 7 seconds behind Sekiguchi at mid race then I started to come back a little bit."
"I went to the pit like 10 laps to the end and we managed to exit right in front of Kobayashi and Rosenqvist who did the race without any stop. That was something that was quite unbelievable. I don't know how they managed with the fuel consumption but they did it so they saved like 35 seconds."
Race to the finish
"So I exited ahead of them and like 5 seconds behind Sekiguchi, 10 laps to the end. The pace was really good, I caught him and got to within about three tenths on the last lap. Maybe with one more lap I could have tried something. I had used up all my overtakes, I pressed the buton like 5 times out of the last corner to see if there was one left but there was nothing."
All to play for in Suzuka
"So P2 in the race, P3 in qualy after two wins, three podiums in a row. Just great, really good work from the team and we are making very good progress with the car. We are second in the championship, only half a point from the lead."
"It's a great position to be in before the last event. I didn't really expect it at the beginning of the season, to be able to fight for the title in my first year. I'm also happy for Honda, the second Honda in the championship is P9 while I am second."
"So I will try and do my best to be in a position to fight for the title in the last race. I think it's going to be really exciting and I am really looking forward to it."