Arthur Pic's season-best qualifying performance went unrewarded during a frustrating sixth round of the GP2 Series at Hockenheim, particularly when an oil pressure issue caused by the hot weather ended his chances of scoring a first championship podium.
The Campos Racing driver's weekend got off to a solid start on Friday morning when he demonstrated strong pace throughout both free practice sessions. Despite being unfamiliar with Germany's grand prix venue, Pic then finished sixth in qualifying after edging out his stand-in team-mate and GP2 race winner Alexander Rossi.
A good start to Saturday's feature race saw Pic challenge Felipe Nasr for fourth heading into turn one, before the Brazilian regained his position. Finishing the lap fifth, Pic was comfortably keeping pace with the frontrunners, despite starting on Pirelli's yellow-marked soft tyres in the searing hot conditions.
Lap eleven saw the Frenchman make his mandatory stop for the harder medium compound rubber, but it was at this point that his afternoon unravelled as Hockenheim's punishing heat took its toll on the #26 machine, causing the oil pressure to drop dramatically and automatically shut down the engine.
Raffaele Marciello, pitting behind Pic, experienced a similar problem at the same moment, confirming that it had not been a driver mistake, and, although he was able to reclaim a couple of positions thereafter, the delay inevitably saw Pic tumble down the order, ultimately taking the chequered flag in 19th spot. To rub salt into the 22-year old's wounds, Russian Time's Mitch Evans had utilised a similar strategy en route
to victory, adjusting his own pit-stop procedure after being informed of Pic and Marciello's mechanical gremlins.
“I'm obviously frustrated at missing out on a great opportunity this weekend,” Pic admitted, “I felt we could challenge for a podium finish on Saturday, and we can take slight consolation from the fact Evans was on a similar strategy – yet much further behind us – before the pit window opened.
“When stopping in the box, I should have maintained a higher level of revs, which would have prevented the engine from going into safety mode. After hearing about a similar problem for Marciello, Mitch was able to take the necessary steps during his own pit-stop. But that's the way motor racing is sometimes.”
The conditions caused further problems for the Frenchman on Sunday when the arrival of rain just before the 45-minute sprint race ultimately led to his early retirement after an eye-catching initial fightback. The heavy shower prompted a late dash to the garage for radiator cooling adjustments prior to the start but, as he attempted to return to the grid, a red light at the end of the pit-lane forced him stop and line up dead last.
On a sodden circuit, Pic wisely elected to start on wet weather tyres while others gambled on dry rubber. It appeared to pay off as he passed eleven cars in ten laps, before switching to slicks as a drying racing line began to emerge. But, exiting the pits, the Frenchman was caught off-guard by Simon Trummer, with the subsequent loss of momentum and cold tyres causing him to spin into early retirement.
“There's a lot of good things to focus on from this weekend,” he insisted, “Our race pace was really strong and I was glad to secure my season's best result in qualifying, although it's a shame we couldn't exploit our potential. With the championship moving straight on to Budapest, I have an opportunity to bounce back and hopefully return to the sharp end.”