BARCELONA, Spain, May 16 — As America eagerly anticipated a Spanish Formula 1 champion's introduction to the Indianapolis 500, a young American was in Spain competing in support series races at the Spanish Grand Prix F1 race, trying to reach racing's major leagues too.
Ryan Tveter, 22, of Oyster Bay, N.Y., is tackling the GP3 Series in Europe this season. If his experiences during his first GP3 weekend ever at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya are any indication, he's poised to have at least a top-10 season even though he's a rookie in this ultra-competitive, international series that develops future F1 stars.
Tveter started 15th but finished 12th in the first half of the doubleheader last Saturday. He was as high as eighth in the second half of the doubleheader on Sunday. He was in tenth when another driver hit him in the late stages of that race, spoiling his chances for a top-10 finish.
Tveter was eighth in the series' first official practice session of the season. He was sixth until the last few minutes of that session, when changing track positions allowed two rivals to edge ahead. He would have qualified seventh or eighth, but a small mistake in Turn 9 caused him to drop to 16th.
Tveter's Dallara is fielded by Trident Motorsport, which is based in Milano, Italy. His #11 carries the colors of Jagoyna Ayam/KFC Indonesia and Pertamina. Tveter also uses his racing program to support several not-for-profit groups: Right To Play, MTV Staying Alive, and the Lessons for Life Foundation.
Tveter got right to work in Saturday's 22-lap race around the 4.655-kilometer, 16-turn road course that can accommodate 140,700 fans. Even though he started 15th, he was up to 12th before the end of lap one. He passed Julien Falchero, Santino Ferrucci, Steijn Schothorst and Giuliano Alesi, while Kevin Jörg edged by him. Falchero got him back on lap two, but Tveter was back in 12th place by lap eight when he passed Jörg. That was his fastest lap of the race, as he was timed in 1:40.130 (165.863 kilometers per hour). He got 11th position on lap 16 when the driver who was second, Jack Aitken, slowed. He fell back to 12th on the next lap when Ferrucci wiggled by, and he maintained that position through the dropping of the checkered flag. The strong finish was better than the results of two of his teammates who were beginning their second year in this series.
Race 2 was five laps shorter. Tveter started 12th and again he had a fabulous start, advancing to ninth place before the end of lap one by passing Falchero, Marcos Siebert and Ferrucci. He was under intense pressure but he still was able to get one more spot on lap two when Leonardo Pulcini pitted, which put him in eighth place.
Ferrucci got him back on lap three but Tveter held ninth place from that point until lap eight when Flachero got by. Two laps later Niko Kari hit him, destroying his hopes for a top-10 finish. Kari received a penalty, and Tveter was officially scored in 18th place. His best lap was the fourth one, which he turned in 1:38.985 (155.831 kph).
"The team and I feel positive about my debut weekend in GP3, despite not quite getting into the points," Tveter said. "We were on the pace straight away in free practice and maintained it well through the first part of qualifying, but a mistake on the final set of tires cost me about four-tenths and moved me down the grid by about eight spots. The level of driving in GP3 is so high and you only have one lap on each set of tires, so that certainly makes it challenging. I was pretty frustrated after qualifying because the potential was definitely there for a much better result.
"There were a lot of unknowns going into the races thinking about the tire degradation, my first start with paddle clutches, and also the use of DRS [drag reduction system] in the races. However, I was able to gain positions off both starts, brought home a solid finish in the feature race, and was feeling confident about a top-10 finish in Race 2 before having to pit and check for damage after being hit by another driver who was making a more than optimistic move late in the race. He received a penalty, but that didn’t give us back any of the positions we lost so it was an unfortunate end after having another good start and managing the pace and tires well throughout the race.
"A big thank you to the team for giving me a great car the whole weekend and to KFC, Jagonya Ayam!, and Pertamina for their support and giving me the opportunity to represent them in GP3. I can’t wait to be back in the car for the final official test at the Hungaroring in June."
The next GP3 event is another doubleheader July 7-9 at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.