Jean-Karl Vernay: ‘Win is a good start to the day’ after qualifying penalty

Jean-Karl Vernay was relieved to claim victory in the opening FIA World Touring Car Cup race at MotorLand Aragón, after the Team Mulsanne driver had lost his pole position with a penalty on Saturday.

Vernay had qualified on pole position for race three on Saturday, but was then stripped of the position by the stewards after he was adjudged to have exceeded track limits on his Q3 lap.

Although that in it itself did not affect his third on the grid for race one, Vernay was still frustrated with the decision heading into the race.

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The Frenchman made a strong start when the lights went out, jumping into the lead as pole-sitter Norbert Michelisz appeared more concerned about blocking the challenge from Gilles Magnus.

Vernay then controlled the rest of the race, taking a first win since 2018 ahead of Cyan Racing’s Santiago Urrutia.

Vernay admitted that had he not won the race but still finished on the podium he was considering making his frustrations about the loss of his pole position clear in the post-race press conference.

“You know, when I was in the car before the race I said ‘you know what, if I’m on the podium and have to go to the press conference I’m not even going to talk because I’m so pissed about yesterday’,” said Vernay.

“That was maybe a stupid reaction. Now… for sure, yesterday was tough, tough to understand the inconsistency of the penalty.

“I always agree if I do something wrong to take it, but everybody has to take it. Anyway, let’s think about the future and that’s what I did.

“I was really focused this morning about what to do. [I made] a good start, a really good start and then, I won’t say I had to control the race, but most of the job was done already.

“Santi [Urrutia] was very quick and I’m pretty sure he also wants a victory so he was pushing hard. But [there were] no big mistakes, [I was] trying to use the advantage of my car where I know I can make a gap and control the rest of the track.

“We can be happy and very proud of what we are doing, what we are achieving as a really small team. It’s a good start to the day, now we have to finish it.”

Vernay expects tyre performance to improve for the rest of the day, as races two and three will take place on a warmer track as the sun rises.

For the Alfa Romeo driver, he expects that will make his job tougher as he has to press forward from sixth and fifth on the grid respectively in the next two races.

“The first lap was a little bit tricky, especially the rear grip. For sure, it is going to be much better during the day.

“The consistency of the tyre level will be worse, that’s for sure, and we are going to have to take care of the front tyres.

“I’m not starting up front for the next two races. For sure, when you are behind you are using the front tyres more and I’m just going to have to be smart, maybe smarter than the others if I want to come back. But we’ll see.

“The level is absolutely fantastic here on the grid and nobody makes big mistakes, so it is not an easy job to come back.

“We have to be focused and try to do the best we can, depending on what’s happening during the race.”

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