TOP 10 GP2 SERIES DEBUT FOR IMPRESSIVE ROOKIE DE JONG
Dutch racing driver Daniël De Jong delivered a mightily impressive performance on his debut in the GP2 Series over the weekend, 23rd/24th June, with a best result of ninth place in the second of two races at Valencia Street Circuit - tantalisingly finishing just a single position outside the points.Delivering an incredibly mature drive in Sunday morning's 23-lap encounter, the 19-year-old raced through from 15th on the grid and handled two Safety Car periods with great composure to secure a richly deserved top 10 result for Rapax Team.
Having only been confirmed alongside Tom Dillmann at the Italian squad just days before the start of the FIA Formula One World Championship's European Grand Prix weekend in Spain, Daniël's maiden outing in GP2 has been all the more spectacular.
"I'm really happy, it's been a cool weekend", said the Karpack, Boix Europe and ECOCUPS-supported driver, "Everything was completely new for me so I prepared as well as possible, I had a lot to learn in practice and qualifying - there was a lot of new information for me to take on - but race one went quite well. I just wanted to survive that, learn as much as possible and then do more in race two."
“I knew there was much more to come, we saved some new tyres and looked at a few things to improve on. I could follow the top 10 guys, I got quicker and quicker and we finished ninth so it was great. We said before the weekend the top 15 would be good, to nearly be in the points is fantastic.”
Progressing smoothly through the practice session on Friday, 22nd June, where he had a huge amount to learn with the feel of the Pirelli tyres and track knowledge, Daniël significantly lowered his lap times in qualifying but had to settle for 25th on the grid for Saturday’s ‘Feature Race’.
Making a clean getaway, the Westmaas driver progressed into the top 20 by lap seven and gained more positions as several drivers opted to take early stops. By lap 13 he was 10th and one of just five drivers still to make their mandatory stop, but at the end of the lap he dived into the pitlane.
Thankfully rejoining the track before the Safety Car was deployed after an incident, Daniël slotted back into the race in 18th position but on the re-start lap further contact in the midfield occurred and so the Rapax rookie was able to inherit 15th place. Although shuffled back to 18th before the finish on lap 28, Daniël was moved back up the order to 15th post-race due to penalties for several drivers.
Therefore starting race two from the eighth row of the grid, the Dutch teenager successfully avoided a lap one collision to move into 12th but at the end of a two lap Safety Car period he was jumped by Rodolfo Gonzalez.
No sooner had the race re-started than the Safety Car was required once again but at the re-start on lap six, Daniël rapidly gained two places when Stephane Richelmi and Fabio Onidi were both caught-up in separate incidents.
Running strongly in 11th place, one second ahead of team-mate Dillmann, Daniël piled on significant pressure to Julien Leal ahead but wasn’t quite able to force a mistake. Then, on lap 16, Gonzalez had to serve a drive-through penalty so Daniël moved into the coveted top 10 – four laps from the finish though, that became ninth when second placed Rio Haryanto crashed-out.
“Now I know the car, I think we can try to finish in the top 10 again at Silverstone”, added Daniël, “I knew the team a bit before the weekend from the test we did earlier in the year, they’re great guys and it was really good working with them. I can’t wait for Silverstone!”
Daniël will be back behind the wheel of his GP2 Series car just a fortnight from now, on 7th/8th July, for his second outing in the FIA Formula One World Championship support category as part of the British Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone.