Jordan King closed in on the GP2 Series leaders after securing his fourth podium finish of the season with a strong second place in Hungary.
The Racing Engineering driver arrived in Budapest for the sixth round of the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship support series at the Hungaroring full of confidence after back-to-back sprint race victories.
“I’m really enjoying mixing it with the frontrunners in GP2,” admitted the 22-year-old Harbury racer. “The standard is very high - just look how close it is in the fight for the championship. You have to be absolutely on top of your game - and the car - in every session.
King’s fastest time during Friday’s qualifying session gave him a starting slot of ninth for Saturday afternoon’s 36-lap feature race.
His 1min 26.667sec marker was just two-tenths of a second adrift of third on the grid - further proof of the series’ competitiveness.
“With a better practice session, I’m sure I would’ve found those two-tenths,” he said. “You can’t afford to be on the back foot.”
At the start of the race, King made one of his now-customary great starts and concentrated on making as much progress as possible, although his tyre choice hampered that to some degree.
“We chose to start on the option [softer] tyre as a safety net for a likely safety-car appearance.
“I struggled for pace on them, to be honest. Once I’d made my pitstop and changed onto the prime [harder] rubber, I was able to hang on to eighth place, which gave me pole position for the reversed-grid sprint race.
A brake issue at the right-rear of the car meant King did well to hang on to the place.
“I mentioned to the team that the brakes weren’t quite right and that I was struggling to pass people on the brakes,” he said, “But they soon sorted it out in readiness for Sunday’s race.”
Sitting on pole for the third consecutive GP2 Sunday, King again nailed his start to lead into the first corner of the 28-lap sprint ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
“I got out front and held on for four laps,” he said. “I didn’t maintain enough front-tyre temperature during that early safety-car period, so I was a sitting duck for [Sergey] Sirotkin at the restart. His pace was very strong, but I held on to second, comfortably ahead of my team-mate [Norman] Nato.
“It was great to be on the podium for the third straight weekend. The top step would’ve been better, of course, but scoring big points is what’s crucial, especially when you consider we’ve had nine different winners in the 12 races so far.”
As a result of another double helping of championship points - his third on the bounce - King moved up to sixth in the drivers’ standings, just five points adrift of third place, and only 16 from second.
“It’s so close,” King added. We’re moving up the table and it’s all still to play for. Bring on Hockenheim this weekend.”