QUALIFICATIONS : Sixth on the grid...
We're back at the legendary Monza circuit near Milan where it's already been very hot. Despite the temperature I had a good morning session completing 13 laps with the third fastest time of all. I didn't push too hard, I wanted to explore the track
because I had been told that it had been resurfaced. But my memories from last year were unchanged and the real problem here is the lack of downforce making the car quite unstable in the hard braking zones and under heavy acceleration. As the final race of the season it promises to be an exciting weekend.
Qualifying was tough, especially in 34 degree heat. I was hoping to be top three. I am in third line.
Monza is a very different challenge to Istanbul. My first visit here was last year when I qualified fourth. It's really easy to make a mistake on this track and lots of drivers went off today including Glock, Negrao, Piccione, Bruni and Valles. You have to be very precise and consistent.
I'll start the first race from sixth on the grid and need to get off the line well. The car was comfortable today, but I had a small overheating problem with the engine. The temperatures were too high. We'll also have to be careful to stay out of trouble at the narrow first corner where there is often an accident.
RACE 1 : Prémat secures 3rd place into 2006 Championship
To finish fifth in the Italian Grand Prix secures my third position in the Championship. It wasn't an easy race, as I did not manage to have the start that I wanted. Imagine that I was behind Lewis Hamilton and Adam Carroll and then suddenly my engine cut. Perera dashed ahead of me and Pantano was in the lead of the race. Luckily the car started again, but Pereira had passed me. Last night's rain, did not do any good to the track conditions and they were also different than I expected. 32 laps is always a long distance.
I had a reasonably early pitstop on lap 9. But it did not go as swift as I wanted and we have to investigate why we lost position. The car was hard to drive for the remaining 23 laps to go and I had a lot of understeer. I came back and was racing again in sixth place as the safety car came out after Porteiro's car from Campos racing was in the way
I was constantly under attack from Ammermueller and Glock. But I maintained a safe fifth place to secure points.
Overall, I am pleased with the result because I collect more points from a difficult starting position and after a difficult race.
Tomorrow I'll start just in second line and will be looking to drive another very competitive race. Again the start will be important but I'm confident we can at the very least be on the podium for the very last race of the Championship.
RACE 2 : No finish line...
After Giorgio Pantano won in Saturday's 32-lap race, Hiroki Yoshimoto started from pole and I was fourth on the grid for the second race.
It was surprisingly cooler this morning and quite pleasant at 26 degrees centigrade. In the race Pantano, who was way behind me on the grid, took the lead again. Di Grassi got a drive through penalty for jumping the start and Monfardini had a similar penalty for cutting the chicane. Even though it was just a 21-lap race it was quite tough going.
Ahead of me Nelson Piquet was trying to catch Piccione but spun at turn 1 and I gained a place. With 16 laps to go I was lining up Piccione for an overtaking move but then my luck run out and my car suffered a gearbox problem. For some reason I couldn't downshift any more. The wheels locked up and I was lucky not to crash when the car went off at the second Lesmo corner. I recovered to the track and got up to ninth but the car was not right and it was difficult to continue. Eventually I was forced to retire six laps before the end.
It was a disappointing race for me but congratulations to Lewis Hamilton, my team mate, who this weekend became the champion. Seeing him on the podium I was thinking that he is a great champion and I had a lot of fun driving with him this season. Looking back it was a great season for the Team winning the constructors' championship and have its two drivers finish first and third in the drivers' battle.
Many thanks to Fred Vasseur and Nicolas Todt who gave me their confidence one more time for this season, to my technical team who prepare me the best car as they could for each race, to Guy my physical, to Agnès for the press release, and of course, to Toto Wolf my manager and to Cristof his partner.
And specials thanks to you who support me during all this 2006 GP2 season !
Friendly, and see you soon!