I found myself in sixth and was trying to conserve my tires; but at this track it was incredibly difficult to overtake, so I was hoping to take advantage of some overheated tires at the end of the race until we had the safety car deployed. It then became an all-out sprint to the finish with six or so laps to go.
I was really close to the guys in front but it was just so difficult to try and make a move. Settling for sixth would have to do. In the end it was a good points finish and I was still in a great position for race 2, starting third.
I really beat myself up after performances like that. I was in a position to be successful and squandered it. However, I'm also quite a positive person and enjoy focusing on my next opportunity to make the best of my time on track. I went through the data on the start many times (actually we were still at the track at 9:30 that night) and looked at what I could do to improve and be ready for the race 2 start. This time, I nailed it.
Right before the lights went out, I saw the car of Tio Ellinas, who started P2, jump just like Da Costa did the day before, so I knew he'd be getting penalized. I got by Robert Visoiu, who started on pole, through the grass heading down to Turn 1 and never looked back.
The car was fantastic the whole race and I was able to push, build a gap, then save my tires for the end if needed. I couldn't really believe I was going to win the race as the laps ticked away. I had visualized it in my head for so long, always thinking, “What would I do if I actually won?”
It was a feeling I've never felt before as I crossed the finish line – I felt relieved, honestly. I proved to myself I could win, and that an American could win! I'd proved I can run with some of the best young drivers from around the world. My mechanics handed me an American flag when I jumped out of the car and I was so proud to wrap it around me. (He also got to share the moment with dad Derek – BELOW. -Ed.)
One of the coolest parts of the day was walking around the F1 paddock after the race. It seemed like a lot of people had paid attention to the race that morning. Both Nico Hulkenburg and Paul Di Resta came up to me and said congrats, which I thought was quite cool! I walked into the Force India hospitality center to see a longtime family friend of ours, Bob Fernley, who used to be our neighbor on the lake in Noblesville, Ind. It was great to hear he had enjoyed watching the race. It was then quite cool to have Ferrari's team manager Stefano Domenicali come in and say congratulations as well! That was something that was buzzing around in my head for quite a while.
So, overall, I'd say the weekend was quite a success! I not only learned a lot but I got a great haul of points and left Spain tied for second in points, two points out of the lead. I also left with a HUGE boost in confidence to take to Monaco, which will be an absolutely incredible weekend without a doubt. I thrive on street courses, so bring it on!
I can hardly wait for the next blog as there is a lot of awesome stuff happening right now that I can't tell you about, so stay tuned!