King takes rookie honours on debut GP2 weekend

British driver Jordan King made his debut in the GP2 Series last weekend and came away from the Bahrain season-opening double-header with a healthy stash of championship points, finishing as top rookie.

The 21-year-old, who races for the title-winning Racing Engineering team, headed to the Sakhir circuit confident of a strong showing after finishing the final pre-season test session at the venue among the fastest.

“I was very happy after the test,” Jordan says. “There were plenty of unknowns of course, because I hadn’t raced, but I knew the speed was there.”

The weekend started well when Jordan set the fastest time in practice, encouraging since he and the team had only really been playing themselves in.

“We were doing our own thing, putting in a few quick runs and some

long runs too, to get our heads around the set-up,” he says, “but it was a good lap – and great to be quickest. It was very uplifting, particularly for when we get to other tracks I’m less familiar with.”

The all-important qualifying session to decide grid positions threw up a whole new set of challenges for the Warwickshire racer.

“Qualifying was run at 8pm at night, so it was cooler and there was rubber down from the Formula 1 practice session,” Jordan admits. “We were three seconds a lap quicker than we had been in practice, which is a massive amount.”

“The #7 Racing Engineering Dallara lined up sixth on the grid for the Saturday feature race – an hour-long, 32-lap enduro in which drivers must make a pitstop to change tyres – just 0.5s from pole position.

Jordan was making excellent progress on the softer of the two tyre choices when an early safety-car period to neutralise the field following a multi-car shunt forced him and Racing Engineering team-mate Alexander Rossi to make a tactical, formation pitstop to take on the harder tyres.

“Unfortunately, I was stacked in the pits behind Alex, so lost a bit of time. I emerged down in 19th – and last – place, but got my head down and started to repass cars,” he says. “It actually turned out to be the best race I’d ever had. I got up to second at one point and finished just off the podium in fourth. All in all, I was very happy with my speed and how I managed the tyres.”

Jordan’s reward was 12 championship points and the honour of highest-placed rookie.

For Sunday’s shorter sprint race the 2013 British Formula 3 champion started fifth on the grid (the top eight from race one are reversed), but Jordan admits he didn’t make the most of tyre-warming opportunities on the formation lap.

“I was too conservative on the warm-up lap,” he admits. “The team and I were scared of burning up the tyres too soon. I had no grip off the line and then wasted what little heat I had in the rubber by spinning the wheels too much!”

After falling to 13th, another combative drive from Jordan allowed him to start moving back up the field, reaching ninth place – just one place and less than a second from a championship point.

Reflecting on a debut weekend in which he left Bahrain lying a solid fifth in the championship table and, importantly, best of the Brits and top rookie, Jordan said: “It was a very good first weekend. I’m really happy with my performance. There’s still a lot of work to do – we haven’t won yet! – and I’m looking forward to the start of the European season and building on a really solid start to my GP2 career.”