The notoriously challenging Spa-Francorchamps circuit rewarded Harbury driver Jordan King with his maiden GP2 Series podium finish and his best-ever qualifying position in the F1-feeder series to date.
The former British Formula 3 champion, who has raced at the legendary Belgian circuit previously, helped secure a Racing Engineering one-two finish thanks to impressive pace, strategy and overtaking.
“Qualifying was our best yet,” said King. “Friday’s practice was encouraging, but there were lots of unknowns going on to the option [softer] tyre.
“However, I knew then that we had strong potential to take the podium.”
sBuoyed by his practice pace, the 21-year-old secured fourth on the grid for the weekend’s first event, the 25-lap Feature race.
It was his best starting position in what is his rookie GP2 campaign.
King soon settled into a rhythm, maintaining strong pace despite picking up some debris from a first-corner incident between fellow Briton Oliver Rowland and Japanese racer Nobuharu Matsushita.
A lap-four smash involving Daniel de Jong triggered the virtual safety car and subsequent race-stopping red flag, immediately forcing King to change his strategy, which favoured drivers on the softer compound tyre.
King, who held tenth place in the championship points table ahead of the Spa weekend, made his mandatory pitstop on lap 18, rejoining in 15th place.
He then charged back up to eighth to secure the reversed-grid pole position for Sunday’s 18-lap Sprint race.
“Eighth is the ‘best-worst’ position,” explained King.
“I would’ve liked to move up further to fourth and fifth, but it was great to come through the field to eighth and start from pole on the reversed grid for Sunday’s race.”
A strong start allowed King to convert his pole position into the lead, although he briefly ran wide halfway around the opening lap, allowing his Racing Engineering team-mate Alexander Rossi to slip past.
Another virtual safety car was deployed mid-way through the race, meaning King had to work quickly to defend his position when racing restarted, pulling away from championship leader and Feature-race winner Stoffel Vandoorne.
Racing Engineering duo Rossi and King charged across the line in first and second place, separated by just 1.5 seconds, to record the first-ever one-two finish for the Spanish team.
King reflected on his strong result with mixed feelings, however.
“To achieve my first-ever podium here at Spa is a real privilege,” he said.
“My overtaking was good, as was my pace, but my defence at Les Combes was disappointing.
“If I’d have kept him [Rossi] behind me, I know I’d have won.
“But this podium finish is encouraging for the next round at Monza.
“I’ve had three podiums there before and although GP2 is very different to any series I’ve raced in so far, I’m feeling confident.”
The next round of the GP2 series takes place at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza in Italy on the weekend of September 4-6.