Monaco breakthrough! The sun blazed down on the 67th Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix and there were also a few rays of light in the Tech 1 Racing camp. While the team from Toulouse did not win, the level of performance of both cars and...
The sun blazed down on the 67th Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix and there were also a few rays of light in the Tech 1 Racing camp. While the team from Toulouse did not win, the level of performance of both cars and drivers proved that they are on the right track. Simon Abadie and his men left the Principality in an upbeat frame of mind.
Monaco is an event unto itself on a circuit like no other. The Formula Renault 3.5 Series is a curtain raiser to the most eagerly-awaited F1 Grand Prix of the season, so it is very much in the public eye over a weekend during which glamour and motor racing vie for attention. Tech 1 Racing has won the last two races in the Principality, and it was counting on this event to kick-start what had been a disappointing season so far.
Charles Pic, last year's race winner, was back on a track that holds no secrets for him, which was not the case for Brendon Hartley. The New Zealander had only the 45-minute free practice session to get to grips with the layout's traps and pitfalls.
The Formula Renault 3.5 Series is usually the first to practice on the Monaco circuit, so the opening laps are very tricky on a gripless track. Pic went out on worn tyres and set the eight-quickest time after a workmanlike session. The team decided to give Hartley a set of new rubber to help him feel his way around the Monegasque roller coaster. He ended the session second quickest and Tech 1 Racing tackled qualifying with high hopes.
The drivers were split up into two groups. Pic was in Group A while the New Zealander was in Group B. The Frenchman's qualifying got off to a good start, and he was battling for pole before pitting to make a technical adjustment. On rejoining, he dialled in a quick lap, and was about to go for a couple of flyers when he was slowed by yellow flags after which the session was stopped by a red flag. Charles was unable to defend his chances and he finished in a frustrating sixth place.
"It really is a pity, as he looked good for pole," commented Simon Abadie. "In Monaco, more than anywhere else pole is crucial. You need three or four laps to get the best performance on this track. It was obvious that the quickest time would be set at the end of the session, as was the case in Group B. A red flag ruined Charles's hopes. Starting from the sixth row, it's going to be difficult to score a good result, as overtaking is virtually impossible here."
In Group B, Hartley set out with great ambitions, but kissed the rail a little too ardently and damaged a suspension wishbone at the front and rear. The team did a quick repair job but his car's balance was upset. Despite this, he set the eighth-quickest time in his group. So for the race Charles and Brendon were on the sixth and eighth rows. The two Tech 1 drivers prepared to play a waiting game on a circuit where passing opportunities are few and far between.
Pic made a good start and was part of a tightly-knit group squabbling for fourth place. He was quicker than his rivals but was unable to mount even the slightest attack for fear of losing everything in a collision. He crossed the line in ninth place scoring two points.
Hartley came home in seventeenth spot having been hit with two drive-through penalties for not respecting the track limits. Paradoxically, it was his best performance to date as he set the fastest lap in the race.
"Charles drove a sensible race. He was quick and scored a couple of points that could prove useful at the end of the championship," analysed Abadie. "Brendon's performance in the race underlined the fact that our cars are quick. He drove without feeling any real pressure and he achieved a kind of breakthrough. We really feel that he's turned a corner in this race and got the knack of how to get the best out of a Formula Renault 3.5. It's a very good sign! "Even if the results aren't all we were hoping for, we're leaving Monaco in an upbeat frame of mind. We're quick. All we're lacking is just that little bit of luck. We're usually prevented from running through our full programmes: we've just got to get it right once and everything will fall into place. There's still a long way to go in the championship and we've not given up yet, not by a long chalk!" concluded the Tech 1 Racing team manager.
The next two races will take place on the Hungaroring on 13th & 14th June.
-credit: tech 1