Nancy Knapp Schilke, GP2 Correspondent
Charles Pic earns his 3rd pole of the season, tops local Italian hero
The Italian fans at Monza were ready to cheer on their local driver for the Scuderia Coloni team when out of nowhere; Charles Pic burst their balloon when he stunned both the crowd and his rivals to land the Feature race pole position in the GP2 Series season finale. The Frenchman laid down a time of 1:32.349 for the Barwa Addax Team seven minutes into the qualifying session which no one else could top on the very fast Autodromo Nazionale Monza circuit.
“It was a great day this morning, although we were still missing some tenths, but we made a good job for qualy and found a good solution: the car was good and I found a good lap,” said Pic who was 14 seconds off the pace of Luca Filippi in the practice session.
I think especially for this qualifying it was the key, to find the clear lap.
Filippi already had the fans celebrating after setting the fastest practice time but the Italian came up short with his best lap of 1:32.460. It marks his fourth consecutive front row grid slot in second position for Saturday’s first race of the weekend.
In the press conference after qualifying, Filippi commented, “It's something that nobody expected for me to be four times on the front row, so it's very good: in Monza it's good for the Italian fans coming tomorrow to see an Italian flag in the front row, fighting for the win, and it's very important for me because at the end of day we are here to make a show and make our fans happy.”
Trying his best to land on the front row was Rapax driver Fabio Leimer with his best lap of 1:32.485. The Swiss racer gave it all he could but lost out to Filippi by a mere 0.025 seconds. “My aim for today was to make pole position, and like Luca I also had it in my hands: I was really quick until I went to the last corner and made a big mistake, got a big oversteer and lost so much time.
“But in the end I can be happy: the year wasn't like I wanted but I think I can be happy about this third place, and the aim for tomorrow is to win the race. I will try my best,” added Leimer.
The drivers did not hold anything back in the opening laps today as many of them have experienced heartbreak in the past due to yellow flags, and today Filippi did answer Pic back but the very next lap, the Frenchman hit his best lap and others had to give chase.
“I think especially for this qualifying it was the key, to find the clear lap: on the second run it was yellow flags every lap because of some crash, and if you don't have crashes you have more opportunity to do your lap time. But on this one I think the opportunity was, for me, in the first run, so I just took it,” Pic said in the post qualifying press conference.
Romain Grosjean already won the title but there was no stopping the Frenchman for going all out or pressuring others. Indeed the DAMS driver was in the mix for the top spot as were Alvaro Parente (Carlin) and both Racing Engineering drivers Christian Vietoris and Dani Clos.
It was heartbreaking for Filippi who was on a flying lap when again the yellow flags were shown; this time at the Ascari complex. Lotus ART’s Esteban Gutierrez lost the rear and went backwards into the fence. However, the front row starters are still in the hunt for second in the final points standing and Filippi said, “In GP2 I have never got a win here: I've got some second places, so it would be very nice for me and the team. Monza is very special for me, and I will really try and get the best out of me tomorrow.”
Parente ended up fourth best followed by Grosjean, Clos, and Vietoris. Rounding out the top ten were Adam Carroll (Super Nova), Sam Bird (iSport) and Max Chilton (Carlin).
The surprise of the day came from the Addax and Lotus ART teams when Giedo van der Garde nor his rival for the vice-championship Jules Bianchi were in the top 10; let alone the top five! With Pic and Filippi earning points today and starting on the front row, the sub champion title may yet come down to the Sprint race on Sunday. The outcome of today’s qualifying will add fuel to what already will be a tight battle for the victory tomorrow.