Disappointing race for Conway
25 August 2007 – Reigning British F3 champion Mike Conway's maiden season in the GP2 Series took another difficult twist at Istanbul Park on Saturday, where he was forced out of the race with steering damage on his Super Nova International car after a first corner incident.
GP2 rookie Mike, who was sampling the challenging Istanbul Park venue for the first time in his career, was in confident mood after 30-minutes of free practice, which he finished 10th fastest in the lap times, quicker than many of the second-year GP2 drivers. However, a seemingly innocuous incident would come back to haunt him when he passed a cruising Karun Chandhok (Durango) at Turn 3 during the session.
Unfortunately, as Mike completed the manoeuvre, he didn't notice a yellow flag on the inside of the corner, and had already completed the move by the time he saw the yellow at the exit. Despite making an honest mistake, with no-one being put at any genuine risk, Race Stewards decided to make an example of him and gave him a seven-place grid penalty.
"It was all a bit unfortunate," said Mike. "You can't see the marshals post on the inside of the corner very clearly at the best of times, and I just didn't know there was a yellow there as Karun let me past. Unfortunately, I passed him in a yellow flag zone, and rules are rules, so I'll just have to be more aware of that in the future.
"They did acknowledge there is a bit of a problem with the position of that marshals post, so maybe they'll do something about it in time for next year's race here."
With the penalty looming over him going into qualifying, Mike had to stay focused on doing the best job he could. His first run on new tyres was hampered by a tyre pressure issue, so he had to set his quickest time on his final run. He did just that, with a time good enough for 12th on the grid - albeit, with a demotion to 19th.
"I think P12 would have been okay, because I'd have the chance to get into the top eight from there and benefit from the reverse grid. But it's going to be much tougher from down there in 19th, so I'm going to have to push really hard right from the start and see what happens. If I'd found another two-tenths, I would have been four or five places higher up, but it shows just how competitive this series is."
His race did not last long. After making a great start, he was right behind Barcelona winner Bruno Senna going into Turn 1. With a BCN car right alongside him, Mike stayed wide, but unfortunately his car snapped into a spin, and he was collected by two cars he'd already passed.
"I slowed down a lot for the first turn, it wasn't a case of me going too fast," said Mike. "But the rear just came around on me. I pulled the clutch, and was ready to go again, but I just knew someone would hit me, because of where the car had spun to a halt. First Andy Soucek hit me, and then Adrian Zaugg.
Mike rejoined the race, and caught back up with the pack, but when he made his pitstop, along with most of the field on lap two, his team checked the car for damage and spotted that his steering arm was too bent to continue safely, so they chose to retire the car.
"Getting the penalty yesterday certainly didn't help my cause, as I was started further back than I should have, but the car felt really good when I was going. We'll be okay for tomorrow, so I'm confident I can put on a good charge from the back."
The GP2 series is the final stepping stone on a drivers path to Formula One, and with the races taking place at the Grands Prix, is a showcase of their talents in front of their peers and the F1 paddock. Conway is reigning British F3 champion and graduated to the GP2 series for this season.