Super Formula Round 2 - Okayama International Circuit
In a 111 km (30 lap) sprint race, getting off to a great start is of the upmost importance. And Andre Lotterer, who started in the 2nd grid did just that by capturing the top spot from pole position starter Yuhi Sekiguchi. Sekiguchi had said that the start is 99.99% of the key to winning the race, and he was right. There is no doubt that he has some serious regrets about Lotterer getting past him.
After the race began, Lotterer quickly put more than a 1 second between himself and Sekiguchi. Kamui Kobayashi also got off to a great start and moved up from 7th to 4th. Naoki Yamamoto also moved up from 9th to 5th.
Lotterer kept the lead throughout the entire race and was able to pick up his 24th victory in Super Formula. His teammate Kazuki Nakajima won Round 1 at Suzuka, so their team, VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S have posted solid results in the first 2 races of 2017. Sekiguchi finished 2nd in this race, and rookie Nick Cassidy picked up 3rd, for his podium debut in Super Formula. It was the first time his team made it to the podium since 2014, when James Rossiter finished 2nd.
Felix Rosenqvist, who finished the race in 12th place, recorded the fastest lap of the day of 1’15.072, showing his potential for tomorrow’s qualifying and Race 2. Pierre Gasly suffered a huge setback when his front wing started rubbing against his front left tire after coming in contact with another car in a turn. His tire started smoking, and there was worry that his tire may rupture. As a result, he had to go to the pit before completing his 3rd lap and have his front wing replaced. He finished in overall 19th place for this race.
One of the biggest factors in today’s Super Formula 51-lap race was the pit in timing for the mandatory tire change (all four tires). In pole position was Hiroaki Ishiura, who is the course record holder in Okayama. In a 2nd grid start was rookie Kenta Yamashita, followed by Yuhi Sekiguchi in 3rd and Andre Lotterer in 4th—who both made it to the podium in yesterday’s race.
For just a few seconds, it appeared that Lotterer pulled off a great start and was going to jump up into the top spot from his 4th grid start, but Ishiura and Yamashita were able to successfully fend the always tough Lotterer off. Yuhi Sekiguchi, who was overtaken by Lotterer at the start of the race, headed to the pit before the end of lap one and set up his plan of attack for the rest of the race. Lotterer followed suit on lap 6, and came back out onto the track behind Sekiguchi. Sekiguchi was able to gradually gain on front running Ishiura lap by lap and close the gap between them.
Yamashita, who was in 2nd place, wasn’t able to pick up the pace, so Ishiura began distancing himself from Yamashita and the rest of the cars. Then on lap 32, Yamashita went into the pit on lap 32, but it took longer than expected to have his tires changed—taking away his chance of making his Super Formula podium debut. At this point in the race, it was still Ishiura, Sekiguchi or Lotterer’s race to win. The timing of front-running Ishiura’s tire change now became the key to how the race was going to pan out.
Ishiura went into the pit on lap 34 when he still had a full 6 second lead over Sekiguchi. But it took 9.5 seconds to have his tires changed. When he came out on the track, he was nearly 4 seconds behind Sekiguchi, who was now in the lead.
Takuya Izawa crashed on lap 38, and the safety car was deployed on lap 39. Felix Rosenqvist took advantage of the situation and headed to the pit for a tire change. And when the safety car went off the track, it was Sekiguchi, Ishiura, Lotterer and Rosenqvist in the top 4 spots. Sekiguchi was able to control the race from there, and Ishiura, who had the advantage of having on the least used tires, began heavy pursuit of Sekiguchi, for a tail to nose race over the 5 remaining laps. Sekiguchi successfully held off Ishiura to take the checkered to pick up the win. Ishiura finished in 2nd place, and Andre Lotterer in 3rd. Felix Rosenqvist moved up 11 spots from a 15th grid start to finish 4th, followed by Kamui Kobayashi, Kenta Yamashita in 6th, and Pierre Gasly in 7th place.