Sam continued to impress in his rookie GP2 season with a podium finish in the feature race at Istanbul Park, Turkey.
Having qualified fifth on the grid, the young Briton made a good start and immediately overtook iSport's Oliver Turvey for fourth place on the inside of turn 1.
After a handful of laps, race leader Maldonado had built up a small gap to the Valsecchi-Perez-Bird trio who had themselves pulled away from the rest of the field.
The round of pit-stops produced a positional switch between Valsecchi and Perez but Sam emerged still in fourth place. He then settled into a good rhythm about a second behind GP2 returnees Valsecchi and Perez, who resumed their battle for second place.
Sam would later explain: “I could see Davide (Valsecchi) and Sergio (Perez) fighting hard just ahead of me and both were being quite aggressive on their tyres. I was comfortably staying with them while still pulling away from the guys behind so I decided to look after my own rubber and make my move later on in the race.”
With eight laps to go, Sam made an attempt to overtake Perez for third place at turn 1 and then again at turn 12, where the Mexican forcefully shut the door, causing some damage to the nose of the ART car. However, the Briton would not be denied his place on the podium and finally got his man at turn 7, with three laps to go.
Starting Sunday’s reversed grid sprint race from sixth, Sam once again made a solid start and settled into a strong rhythm. However, from the midway point in the race, he began to suffer from severe rear tyre degradation and blistering, causing him to progressively lose rear end grip and dramatically affecting his lap times.
“To coin the old football saying, it was a weekend of two halves” said Sam at the end of the weekend. “In the feature race, the car felt strong and the podium was a satisfying result.”
“For today’s race, on the other hand, the track conditions were very different and we just didn’t get the balance of the car quite right. In the second half of the race the rear tyres were completely gone so the car became a real handful. We’re obviously disappointed that we couldn’t capitalise on a decent starting position to put some more points on the board. But I’m sure we’ll be back on the pace in Valencia, where ART have had a good car in the past”.
The next round of GP2 Series takes place on the streets of the Spanish city on 26-27 June.