A miffed Alexander Smolyar was left wondering what could have been following today’s Barcelona Sprint Race. The MP Motorsport driver was annoyed to have missed out on a top four finish following his battle with Juan Manuel Correa on the penultimate lap.
Starting on the shady side of the grid, he enjoyed a strong getaway from ninth. The opening lap saw Isack Hadjar drop back off the line, as Smolyar glided around the outside of Arthur Leclerc into Turn 1.
“I was quite aggressive in the beginning,” he said after the race. “I managed to gain two positions. It really depends a lot on the track position if we get a bit lucky or not.”
With degradation on the forefront of the drivers’ minds around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Smolyar decided to preserve his hard Pirelli tyres towards the end of the race.
“I was right behind my teammate Caio (Collet) and I thought he was very slow, so I kept running behind him to save the tyres. Then, there were some people who started to drop their pace - (Juan Manuel) Correa, (Kaylen) Frederick as well.”
Opting for the conversative strategy seemed to have paid off. On Lap 18, Smolyar found himself on Correa’s tail after Collet overtook the ART Grand Prix driver for the final podium spot. Utilising the extra grip he had left and DRS along the main straight, the MP driver gambled on a move around the outside of Turn 1 once more.
Going late on the brakes, both drivers narrowly avoided banging wheels. Smolyar went off and had to re-join the track correctly – a costly move that dropped him down to sixth and left him feeling unimpressed.
“I went for the move around two laps before the end, and I thought even if I go around the outside coming into the corner, I was ahead. But I got pushed wide and because I had to avoid and do what the stewards always ask - to go around the outside of the bollards - I lost out to (Arthur) Leclerc.”
Adding five points to his Drivers’ Championship tally has helped Smolyar climb up two places to 10th, on 16 points. He’ll have a shot at ending the round on a high in Sunday’s Feature Race, lining up in third.