This week we head back to 2014 at Hockenheim in Germany where Kiwi Mitch Evans claimed his second GP2 Series (now FIA F2) feature race victory in successive races with a spectacular drive in furnace-like conditions.
The young Aucklander rocketed through the field and into the lead from a lowly 15th place on the 26-car grid; after a broken front anti-roll bar frustrated his Friday qualifying performance. The 38-lap was run in sweltering conditions at the German Grand Prix weekend, but the Russian Time team executed a perfect race strategy to manage their tyre wear as Evans sliced through the field.
“I can’t believe it; this is pretty special,” said Evans at the time. “At the start I was hoping for a top eight finish which would have given me pole position for the sprint race. With six laps to go I thought I could hold on for a podium. The car was awesome, but I wasn’t expecting to win. This is mega.”
The 20-year-old Kiwi – one of the youngest drivers in GP2 – kept his cool under intense pressure to cross the line just 0.4 second ahead of McLaren F1 test driver Stoffel Vandoorne with Championship points lead Jolyon Palmer a fading third.
Evans struggled through Friday practice and qualifying and it was later found the car had a damaged thread on the front rollbar adjusting mechanism. Therefore the iSport engineers running the Russian Time team decided to start the race on the soft tyre compound. This strategy offered a chance during the early laps to overtake those ahead that started on the medium Pirelli tyre compound.
Evans was up to eleventh at the end of a fiery opening lap, having survived a touch with Alexander Rossi at the hairpin. His car was undamaged but Rossi’s steering was broken. On lap five, Evans was up to ninth.
Evans then passed Stephane Richelmi, who also started on the softer tyre, and Johnny Cecotto Jr on successive laps, but critically he didn’t make his mandatory pit stop to change tyres until lap 14 – leaving him a 24 lap run to the finish on the medium compound tyre.
Others who started ahead of Evans on the soft tyre, Arthur Pic and Raffaele Marciello, were running fifth and sixth when they pitted earlier – but both stalled, apparently due to overheating engines. This gave Evans another two places.
On his fresh medium rubber, Evans had to work his way through a queue of slower cars that had started on the medium compound. He also had to repass Richelmi, who had undercut him; and Sergio Canamasas almost ruined his strategy by being difficult to pass.
Meanwhile, at the front, Vandoorne had beaten polesitter Palmer off the startline to lead the opening 25 laps. However as Vandoorne rejoined the track after his pitstop, Evans swooped ahead and into the lead which he then held to the chequered flag.
Just two weeks before the Hockenheim round, Evans claimed his first GP2 win at the British Grand Prix.
His back-to-back Feature race victories in England and Germany meant Evans had scored points in the last seven races placing him fourth place overall in the standings.
Four more podium appearances over the rest of the season saw him finish fourth in the standings on 174 points, 102 behind DAMS driver Jolyon Palmer who won the championship title after a consistent season, with points-scoring finishes in 20 of the campaign’s 22 races.