First year GP2 Series racer Oliver Rowland leapt to the top of the championship standings on home ground at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday, 10th July, after securing his second podium finish of a magnificent British Grand Prix weekend for MP Motorsport. Producing a sensational performance in the round nine ‘Feature Race’ on Saturday, 9th July, to climb through from ninth on the grid into a richly deserved top three finish, the Racing Steps Foundation backed Renault Sport Academy driver starred once more in round 10 on Sunday by rising into the top three again, that time from sixth on the grid.
Beginning the weekend fifth in the GP2 standings, Rowland climbed into the top four after the opening Silverstone race – moving to within just three points of the championship lead – before edging a point clear at the top of the table after Sunday’s result. In the team standings, MP Motorsport has been elevated into the top six just a point shy of fifth.
Dutch team-mate Daniël De Jong raced strongly in both contests and ended the fifth event of the season with a best finish of 16th position in the Sprint Race. Race one could have delivered a similar result but an unfortunate pitlane speeding penalty dropped him back to 19th place.
“It’s an amazing feeling to leave Silverstone with Oli at the top of the championship”, said MP Motorsport’s Tony Shaw, “It’s been another fantastic weekend for the team, finishing on the podium in both races is exactly what we wanted to achieve and Oli delivered with two great drives. Unfortunately, the weekend didn’t quite work out for Daniël but his race pace was good again.”
Rowland was in the fight for pole during the early going in qualifying on Friday, 8th July, a session which was interrupted by a red flag stoppage just before mid-distance, but when the action resumed a mechanical issue forced him to pull off the circuit and he eventually finished 10th quickest.
In the sister MP Motorsport car, De Jong concluded qualifying 18th fastest but he was elevated a place on the grid for Saturday’s contest, and Rowland too was promoted into ninth, as a result of a penalty for Sergey Sirotkin.
Rowland made an absolutely blistering start to round nine, surging into seventh place on the run through Abbey before then slicing into fifth position out of Farm and into Village. Looking to challenge for fourth out of Aintree, he had to tuck back in to fifth on the approach to Brooklands.
Pressuring for fourth, the Renault Sport Academy racer gained the place on lap two and then closed on third place but from lap five he started to lose grip from the Soft compound tyres. Slipping back to fifth, he was then edged back to ninth before pitting on lap six to switch rubber.
Rejoining the contest in 13th position, second of the drivers to have stopped early, Rowland edged closer to the top 10 and as the race reached lap 20 the lead group began to serve their tyre change stops. When the order settled, Rowland held second place with five laps to run and he produced some exceptional driving to keep the advancing Antonio Giovinazzi at bay.
Holding second into the 29th and final lap, Rowland almost managed to see off the Italian but at Luffield as he defended the inside line Giovinazzi managed to move around the outside to edge Rowland back to third place.
De Jong moved into 16th place on the opening lap and although slipping to 17th on lap four he swiftly regained the position and then moved up into the top 10 when the early pit stoppers switched tyres.
Into ninth on lap 15, De Jong punched in quicker and quicker lap times and the next time around he produced a good pass into Brooklands to move into the top eight. Serving his tyre stop to switch to the Soft compound Pirellis on lap 22, pitting from ninth place, De Jong rejoined in 17th position but an unfortunate 10 second stop/go pitlane speeding penalty resulted in an eventual finish of 19th.
Beginning Sunday’s race from sixth on the grid, Rowland again aced the start to leap into the top four into Turn One. On lap eight, he saw his chance to try and seize third into Stowe and did so with a brilliant move on Norman Nato but on the subsequent tour he was edged back to fourth again.
As the race neared its conclusion rain started to fall and over the course of the final three laps the weather worsened. Rowland, judging the conditions superbly, reeled in third placed Nobuharu Matsushita and under extreme pressure into Brooklands on the penultimate tour the Japanese driver badly locked-up, enabling the MP Motorsport driver to slice past for the podium.
De Jong, starting 19th on the grid, quickly gained a place and swarmed all over the back of Sean Gelael’s car as the pair queued up behind Gustav Malja. On lap nine, Malja was passed by both and then, three laps later, De Jong got ahead of Gelael to move into 16th place. Although slipping behind Nabil Jeffri during the second half of the race, the Dutchman moved back into 16th late on.
Rounds 11 and 12 of the GP2 season will take place a fortnight from now, over the weekend 23rd/24th July, at the Hungaroring near Budapest.
2016 GP2 Series Driver Standings (after Rd10):
1st Oliver Rowland, 79pts; 18th Daniël De Jong, 6pts
2016 GP2 Series Team Standings (after Rd10):
6th MP Motorsport, 85pts