Crash.Net GP2 News
Nightmare start to Ericsson's big year
27 March 2013
Sweden's Marcus Ericsson arrived in Malaysia hoping that the 2013 GP2 season opener would get him off to a flying start in his best chance yet of clinching the feeder series title, after stepping into the DAMS seat that has seen Romain Grosjean and Davide Valsecchi win the championship in 2011 and 2012.
A flying start is exactly what he got on Saturday - albeit not the one he wanted.
His race weekend had already been compromised by traffic during qualifying that left him lining up from 13th place on the grid for Saturday's feature race, and things got worse on the opening lap as the field bunched up into a slow left-hander. Ericsson ended up riding up over the back of Jolyon Palmer's Carlin, briefly getting airborne before crashing back down to earth and coming to a stop in the gravel run-off.
That left Ericsson starting from the back row of the grid for Sunday's sprint race, and despite his best efforts he could only rise up the order to 13th place by the chequered flag, meaning that his first race with DAMS had ended up without any points.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed for the team and for myself to be leaving here without even scoring a point," said the 24-year-old who is starting his fourth season in GP2 after spells at Super Nova and iSport. "The whole weekend was spoilt by traffic in qualifying and in the race.
"My retirement in the first heat meant that I had to start from the last row on Sunday," he added. "However, I discovered just how quick the car is and made a good comeback. I just needed a few more laps to score points. I'm sure we'll have the potential to fight at the front in the next race.”
His team mate Stéphane Richelmi had rather more luck Despite having encountered similar issues with traffic in qualifying that meant he started race 1 behind his team mate. Like his team mate, Richelmi was caught up in an incident on the first lap which dropped him to the back of the field - so to fight his way back from there into the top ten by the finish was a notably strong performance by the 23-year-old from Monaco.
Moreover, he'd finished in eighth place - which meant he started Sunday's race from pole. However, he was quickly jumped by Stefano Coletti and Felipe Nasr on the opening laps, and later ran wide on worn tyres which meant he last the chance for a podium position to Arden's rookie Mitch Evans.
"It's a pity I wasn't able to start from nearer the front in the first race," Richelmi admitted. I'm very happy to have made a good comeback in the first heat, but much less so about my start in the sprint race. And also to have missed out on a top-three finish on Sunday by so little."
Even so, "My overall feeling is one of satisfaction," he insisted. "My thanks to the team for the great job they did throughout the weekend," he said, adding: "This year DAMS has given me a very good car and it helped me to show what I'm capable of."
DAMS' general manager François Sicard admitted that the season opener at Sepang International Circuit had been a slightly disappointing start for the French squad and that they were not happy with the results that they achieved, but they weren't downcast as they embarked on the defence of their team championship title.
"It's mainly a question of circumstances," explained Sicard. "It all began in qualifying when the drivers couldn't get in a clear lap. In the race they showed their speed and they were able to save their tyres.
"We know how quick Marcus is, no doubt about that, and Stéphane proved over the weekend that he's capable of raising his game and fighting at the front," he added. "Overall, we're happy with the twelve points he scored for us as we came from a long way back. We're reassured about the car's performance. Now, we're going to work very hard to arrive in Bahrain in an even stronger position.”
"We've got the speed and I can't wait for the next race in Bahrain," agreed Richelmi.
The team and divers have four weeks to evaluate the data from round and fine-tune their approach before reconvening at Sakhir International Circuit for the second race weekend of 2013 from April 19 to 21.