By: Nancy Knapp Schilke
- Van der Garde sets fastest time
- Bird inherits pole in Monaco
- Incidents fill up qualifying session
The GP2 Series drivers certainly had a challenge today on the Circuit de Monaco in Monte Carlo. However Giedo van der Garde was the one who kept his cool, even after losing his front wing, and turned the fastest lap to land the pole on the famous street circuit. The Dutchman set a best time of 1:21.781 in the closing minutes for the second consecutive time in just three events in 2011.
"It was quite a big mess, a lot of yellows and even a red flag I think, so it was not ideal but that's Monaco: every year it's the same, and I'm just very pleased. The team gave me a perfect car, we worked hard, this morning we had some problems and only did 3 flying laps and the hydraulic pump broke, so we didn't have a lot of laps. So to have pole position in Monaco, it's such a great feeling!" smiled the pole winner.
The driver for the Barwa Addax Team actually inherited last weekend's Barcelona pole thanks to one of his main rivals, Jules Bianchi, who was penalized for passing under a yellow flag. Bianchi had better luck today and will slot third on the grid in his Lotus ART car but up on the front row is the man tied with van der Garde for the points lead in the championship. iSport International's Sam Bird missed the pole by less than one-tenth of a second.
Bird commented after qualifying ended: "I'm very happy with second again, it's great to be on the front row again and it shows that we've been nice and consistent this year, and I'd like to thank iSport for giving me a super car again."
Bianchi was pleased but at the same time reflecting on his incident during qualifying as he said, "I was happy and just pushing, so I have nothing really to say. I did a good qualifying, my last lap was an improvement and I did my best lap, but anyway I did a small mistake in the first corner so I think we could fight for pole, but I'm quite happy. Even if I get a penalty for tomorrow, I think I will be in the points."
Davide Valsecchi for Team AirAsia will take the standing start tomorrow from fourth on the grid, next to Bianchi, and on the third row for the historic event will be Alvaro Parente (Racing Engineering) and Stefano Coletti (Trident Racing).
However all that changed due to the penalties after qualifying [see below explanation]. Sam Bird has now officially been handed his first GP2 Series pole this season. Valsecchi has been bumped to the front row as Bianchi was demoted from a penalty incured last week in Barcelona.
Those who ran into difficulties today included Romain Grosjean, who led the pace in the practice session, but at the start of the qualifying laps, Grosjean ran into the back of Fairuz Fauzy. The Frenchman for the DAMS team ended up pitting for a new front wing. His day just kept getting worse and Grosjean ended the session with the slowest time which was outside of the 107% rule.
Again we've got to be sensible.
Super Nova Racing's Luca Filippi was off to a good start with the provisional pole before he made an error at Ste Devote and was out of action. While most kept their cool as it took close to five minutes to clear away Filippi's car. Bianchi was first to lay down a hot lap but just as the sprint race winner in Spain was ready to take the top spot, Coletti contacted Fabio Leimer which ended the day for the Swiss driver. It also brought out a red flag to stop the action.
Once back to green, it was anyone's pole to win but it did not take long before the "tag" game begun again. This time Dani Clos hit the rear end of Bird's car and then the van der Garde lost his front wing when he tagged Oliver Turvey's Carlin.
Bird was not upset with Clos as he explained in the post race top three press conference, "I'm sorry with Dani (Clos), because neither of us wanted that to happen, definitely, definitely, definitely. I tried to give him room, and I wanted him to take the room: I was saying come on Dani, go, but he never really went, and then I had to turn and we touched. I don't think there was any damage to my car, I don't know if there was any damage to his car, but it was really unfortunate: I'm sorry for it, I think it was a bit of a racing incident, but I'm sorry for it."
Before long, as the minutes seemed to fill up with incidents, Grosjean ended up bumping up and over the rear wheel of his own teammate, Pal Varhaug. This was the second incident at Rascasse.
Once the track was again free of debris, including some racing machines, those remaining had one lap to grab the pole. However after Bird and van der Garde laid down their fast laps, all heck broke out again -- this time at the famous swimming pool -- with Marcus Ericcson smacking the rear of his teammate, Bird! Cecotto's car was now idle on the track and also stopped was Michael Herck.
After the action stopped and the stewards reviewed the many contacts, three drivers were handed penalties which does change the grid for Friday's feature race. All were for "causing a collision" per GP2.com.
Grosjean's move over his own teammate's rear tire cost him five grid positions which really means nothing since he was already last on the grid and despite the 107% percent ruling, he will be allowed to start the race due to setting "suitable time during today's practice session" which was the best fastest time.
Ericsson who hit his own teammate's car (Bird) was also handed a penalty of five positions and will slot 20th on the grid. To top it off, after being awarded the pole in Spain, the pole winner today has lost his start position. Van der Garde hit Turvey and lost five positions and now will start the race from sixth on the grid.
Prior to knowing about the penalties, Bird spoke about his thoughts on tomorrow's race. "Again we've got to be sensible, we've got to take points and come away from the weekend with more points: that's the secret of doing well in this championship, I think. We've given ourselves the best opportunity with qualifying second, and now we need to capitalise on that and see how many points we can get," he said.
Stay tune on Friday to Motorsport.com and while the Formula One teams will have the day off, the GP2 Series will put on a show for the fans, without a doubt if today was any indication of how tricky the tight circuit is to find room to overtake a competitor.