Christian Lundgaard departed the ART Grand Prix garage for the Sprint Race on Sunday and climbed into the cockpit, having left his team with a determined message: “it's 17 points or nothing.” He returned to the garage with all 17 points, 15 for the glistening winner’s trophy in his hands, and two more for the fastest lap of the day.
The reason he’d left his team with such a resolute message came in the wake of a disappointing Feature Race. The Dane had started Saturday on pole, but lost first to Nikita Mazepin in the dying laps and ended up sixth, as a Safety Car gifted the alternate strategy drivers an advantage – of which Lundgaard was not one.
His Sunday was a complete contrast, starting from third he thundered to first off the line, and from there, the win never looked in doubt.
“I think it shows the pace that we had this weekend,” he explained. “Saturday should have been a victory. If you do prime/option, or if you do option/prime, you wait for a Safety Car at either the beginning or the end... and it came in the end.
“That benefited the prime/option drivers. I'm not too disappointed about the result yesterday, because I still think that without the Safety Car we would have done the job.
“Obviously, it showed that we had a car that as capable of winning and we did that. I told the team that it's either 17 points or nothing, and we got 17 points. I'm very satisfied with the result.”
Given the manner in which he lost the Feature Race, it wasn’t surprising to hear that Lundgaard was wary of tyre degradation on the Saturday. So strong was the pace of his ART machine, though that he was able to build up a mammoth 14s gap, whilst carefully managing his Pirellis.
“At some point, I was like, ‘now I need to take care of the tyres,” Lundgaard explained. “Every time on the straight, my engineer would tell me the gap to P2, and it just kept increasing.
“At that point, I was just cruising around trying to nurse the tyres until the end. These Pirelli tyres seem to only work if you put enough energy into them, so at the end when I started pushing slightly more, I just didn't have more grip.
“I think it's the same for everyone. The pace was great. The car was great, and the team did a great job the whole weekend so I cannot thank them enough.”
The Dane’s victory lifts him to third place in what is a tantalizing tight Championship battle. Just eight points separate him from Callum Ilott in second place, while Robert Shwartzman is only five points below him.
“The Championship still has a long way to go, with three race weekends,” he continued. “Mick (Schumacher) seems to be quite strong in consistency, just scoring points every race.
“We need those podiums, pretty much from now on until the end, but for me at the moment it's still a long reach. We need to focus on being consistent, and that's the thing we need to do now.”