Néstor Girolami says he didn’t realise Ma was on a hot lap

Néstor Girolami has explained the reason for the contact with Ma Qing Hua in Qualifying 2 at Ningbo, with the Argentinian saying he didn’t realise that Ma was on a fast lap when they came together at the chicane.

Girolami had just gone out to start his second run, while Ma had aborted his first run without setting a lap, and so was out of sequence to the other 11 cars in Q2.

Although Ma was flashing his headlights down the back straight, this wasn’t seen by Girolami, who kept on the racing line through the chicane, with Ma at full speed running into the rear of Girolami’s car, spinning out and causing a red flag.

“I thought he was on an out lap,” said Girolami to TouringCarTimes.

“His headlights were on, but I didn’t see them flashing. I thought everybody had just come out of the pit, and we were all trying to keep the tyres warm.

“I thought he would go for the outside, because I left space there, but I didn’t imagine he was on his fast lap.”

Girolami went on to qualify third, 15 places higher than yesterday, with the light rain in the session aiding the turnaround.

“We were lucky in qualifying because of the little bit of rain,” he said. “We are struggling by about 10-15km/h between us and the Hyundai – but with 60kg and no speed, it’s difficult for us to fight for pole without the rain.”

Ma Qing Hua was sure Girolami hadn’t blocked him on purpose, but was still frustrated, with the Chinese driver having set the new lap record in Q1 and looked set to challenge the Lynk & Cos for pole position.

“The team had worked all night to improve the car, and I think our choice was really good,” said Ma to TouringCarTimes.

“The feeling was really what I wanted and I really liked the balance – in Q1, I was really comfortable and building up the speed, it was a really good lap but it wasn’t 100% pushing as it was just Q1.

“(In Q2) we thought it would be difficult to do two sets of new tyres, so we decided to do one out, and check the balance, and come back and get a new set of tyres to do a proper lap, and I think it was a good strategy…but I don’t know what Néstor was thinking – I don’t believe he did that on purpose, but it completely fucked my lap, and I’m confident I could have been on pole position.”

Girolami and Ma’s incident is under investigation by the stewards.