Nancy Knapp Schilke, GP2 Correspondent
Briton lands his maiden win on the crash-fest streets of Monte Carlo
It was a wild start to the GP2 Series second race of the weekend on Circuit de Monaco, and Jolyon Palmer was the star of the show today. The Briton driver for iSport International earned his maiden victory in the ladder series for Formula One by sailing to the lead when the lights went out. Palmer was third on the grid and yet was the leader before the first turn. His start was brilliant especially considering that the historic circuit is difficult to pass on so usually he who takes the lead as they head into Ste Devote ends up with the win.
Carlin’s Max Chilton ended second followed by Caterham Racing’s Giedo van der Garde for the final podium spot.
“Incredible! I think we've been pretty quick all weekend.
Palmer also survived a restart after the Safety Car was dispatched due to several crashes on the course. Ten cars were out of the race before the first lap ended.
“Incredible! I think we've been pretty quick all weekend, and pretty confident around here, and it's an incredible track to take my first win on!” said Palmer. “My first main series podium as well, and I'm really thankful for the team: the car has been really quick, finally it's been reliable, and it's really, really paid!”
The grid for the Sprint race is always based on the Feature race finish with the top eight inverted and Stephane Richelmi was the poleman for today’s race. The Monegasque was caught out at the start and ended up in the first accident. The Trident Racing driver was too slow when James Calado ended up in the back of Richelmi’s car. Despite the damage to Calado’s front wing; he remained on the track, holding second position.
The site of the major incident that brought out the Safety Car was at Casino Square and reports indicate that Friday’s race winner, Johnny Cecotto spun and took out Davide Valsecchi. That incident caused the ensuring havoc. Ironically for the DAMS driver, even though he nearly stalled at the start which put him down the field and in the spot that took him out of action on the opening lap, Valsecchi still leaves Monaco with the points lead.
The worst part of the crash involved Valsecchi’s teammate Felipe Nasr ending up in the air to ride over the top of Ocean Racing Technology’s Victor Guerin while the cars around and behind them also had contact. Besides Richelmi , Cecotto, Valsecchi, Nasr, and Guerin; also sidelined were Tom Dillmann (Rapax), Giancarlo Serenelli (Venezuela GP Lazarus) Stefano Coletti (Scuderia Coloni), Ricardo Teixeira (Rapax), and Fabio Onidi (Scuderia Coloni).
Once the marshals cleaned up the debris, the officials restarted the race on lap four! Palmer took the green flag and was able to leave Calado, Chilton and van der Garde behind as he built up a gap over his rivals mainly due to Calado being too slow and not giving up his position to allow a fight for first place. The Lotus GP driver was given the orange and black flag ordering him into the pits to fix his front wing. By the time Calado left the racing surface for the needed repairs, Palmer had a 10 second edge over his fellow countryman.
Chilton gave it everything he could to close the gap but in the end, the Englishman had to settle for second; missing the victory by 1.083 seconds. He commented, “For sure: I lost a good ten seconds behind James, and I was waiting for them to pull him in but they kept him out, and after that the gap was so big: I tried my best to get it back, and I did it, but I was only just caught up to him by the time the chequered flag came out.”
Chilton added, “… today I put a tweet out saying I want to get some champagne for the boys: I pushed as hard as I could, and we weren't far off number one in the end.”
Van der Garde was pleased to settle for third as he now has four consecutive podium finishes. The Dutchman held off Marcus Ericsson for the final podium step, and he said “We started off pretty well, we were fast in qualifying and free practice, but in race one only at the end, and race two again at the end. It was a good start and I was just patient, patient, patient and in the end I was flying, some really fast laps in the end. I'm really happy: it's not normal, two podiums in Monaco, but we managed it! I'm very happy also for the team, and for myself.”
The Swede for the iSport team leaves Monte Carlo with a second place finish yesterday and fourth today. Ericsson was followed across the line by Rodolfo Gonzalez (Caterham Racing), who had a great battle for fifth with Luiz Razia. The Brazilian for Arden International is not disappointed with his sixth place finish today since he closed the points gap to Valsecchi plus Razia had the fastest lap of the race today.
Nathanael Berthon(Racing Engineering) and Esteban Gutierrez (Lotus GP) took the final two points paying positions.
The Italian hot-shoe this year left with zero points but he still leads the championship standings by 31 points over Razia. Van der Garde is now third with 85 points with Chilton at 79.
On June 22nd, the GP2 championship battle for the 2012 title will take place in Spain for another street fight in Valencia.