Mitch Evans will start the GP2 sprint race at the Austrian Grand Prix from the front row of the grid tonight, after finishing seventh in the 40-lap feature race yesterday.
The New Zealander qualified eighth fastest and made another of his hallmark fast starts to challenge for third at the first corner. The race settled into a battle of tyre strategies, and the 19-year-old held fourth place for much of the race distance.
During the compulsory pit stops he briefly grabbed third place but after the stops he was shuffled back down the order. Seventh place gives Evans second place on the 26-car grid for tonight's 28-lap sprint.
Williams F1 test driver Felipe Nasr put on a crushing display in the first ever GP2 race in Austria, leading from lights to flag to claim a win in the Styrian Alps ahead of McLaren protégé Stoffel Vandoorne and Ferrari Academy driver Raffaele Marciello.
"I made a good start up the inside and was challenging for third at the first corner," said Evans. "I got squeezed by [series leader] Palmer and lost a bit of momentum."
"After that it was a matter of deciding how deep into the race to go on the harder prime tyres before stopping for the softer option tyres."
Vandoorne, Marciello and Palmer all opted for the opposite tyre strategy to Evans and gained a clear advantage.
"When I came in for the soft tyres near the end I was 14 seconds behind Vandoorne and the gap was the same at the finish. We've a little bit of time to find for the second race but it is super close and if I can get a good start. we have good potential."
The result improves Evans from ninth to eighth in the GP2 standing after seven of the 22 races.
The victory was set up at the start when Nasr made a storming getaway; mugging the front row of poleman Johnny Cecotto and Jolyon Palmer to lead the field into turn one. Cecotto was soon losing positions to Stefano Coletti and Palmer in the first few laps.
Behind them Vandoorne was making up for a slow start as he fought his way through the field, with Marciello doing the same a few places back: Palmer, Vandoorne and Marciello started on the option tyres, gambling on how long could they make them last.
Vandoorne got to lap 10 and then became the target on track for those emerging from the pits, while Marciello nursed his rubber for 12 laps and Palmer for one more before coming in, re-emerging right between Vandoorne and Marciello to spark a three-way fight.
Nasr was able to hold the gap to Coletti at around 2.5 seconds for most of the race, with the Monegasque driver on his pace but unable to better it: the pair, along with the lead trio of the pitted drivers, were fast while everyone else tried to hold on.
Vandoorne was soon spearheading a run through the remainder of the unpitted cars, while the lead pair was able to push all the way to lap 30 before eventually coming in.
Nasr easily re-emerged in the lead, but Coletti came out just ahead of the squabble: Vandoorne outdragged him up the hill to turn two for his position, while team-mate Marciello had finally stolen Palmer's place at the first turn and repeated the move on Coletti next time through to round out the podium.
As the laps rolled down Nasr pulled away, winning by 3.8 seconds over Vandoorne and Marciello, with Coletti gutted to finish fourth. Cecotto had a quiet race by himself for sixth, ahead of Mitch Evans, who mugged Alexander Rossi for seventh late in the race.
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