The fifth round of the 2012 GP2 season took place under beautiful blue skies in Monaco this week-end, however it wasn’t a weekend to remember for the Lotus GP team.
The jewel in the crown on the F1 calendar definitely wasn’t the nicest so far for Esteban Gutierrez. The Mexican’s weekend got off to a bad start after he lost the rear of his Lotus and slammed into the wall just out of St Devote, bringing his practice session to a premature end. With an new qualifying format in place for the first time in GP2 history where the cars were split into two groups, odd and even numbers, Esteban qualified fifth in his group, but that meant he lined up fifth from the front with odds down one side of the grid and evens down the other.
Race one was difficult and after losing out in the pits, Gutiérrez was running 9th until he came up to lap a backmarker and ran too deep, bounced over the kerbs and into the wall, forcing him back into the pits to retire with a broken front wing. Race two was one to remember however with a brilliant drive up through the field in a race littered with accidents and a safety car intervention to eventually cross the finish line in eighth place.
With 2 sets of each tyre, and a shortened qualifying session teammate James Calado was seventh fastest in his group, meaning he started the feature race from row seven, his strategy was to pit early, coming in on lap 11 in an attempt to make up some ground. His strategy paid off and he eventually crossed the line in seventh place. Starting from the front two in the sprint race, the young Englishman was swamped at the start by polesitter, Stephane Richelmi leaving him nowhere to go except into the back of him, damaging his front wing in the process. He was eventually shown the black and orange flag due to the damage and his chance of scoring points was over.
Heading into the next round in Valencia in three weeks time, Calado is now fifth in the championship with 75 points while Gutierrez is sixth on 60 points. Lotus GP remains in second place in the teams classification on 135 points.
Esteban Gutierrez: Well, it was the worst track to drastically curtail track time in practice and it more or less dictated the rest of the weekend. I caught up a bit in qualifying as my lap time was not bad but I suffered from the lack of preparation to go grab the last tenths. I had a good start and gained positions right away which is always pleasing in Monaco. A good pitstop and a great car helped us fight for more and we were 7th when I found a lapped car acting weird in front of me. I tried to avoid him at the chicane but I did not have enough space, I went on the kerb and straight into the wall. I have to say the second race was very positive after a very tough weekend mentally speaking. A point finish was somewhat unconceivable starting from 23rd on the grid in Monaco but with a pile up in first lap and a strong race we manage to grab 1 point. Now we have to work hard to make sure we finally get the results the car and the team deserve.
James Calado: After my first pole a fortnight ago, 13th position on the grid in the feature race was certainly not what I was expecting. It was a disappointment not to be able to string three quick sectors together. The plan was to pit early to get rid of traffic and aim for 8th place and the reverse pole. It worked out perfectly! I lost 3 positions at the start but then I peeled off a lot of fast laps and after the pit stop our goal was achieved. We used to stay the start is crucial in Monaco and it was for me, but in a bad way. I had a good start and was fighting with the polesitter when he left me no room; I had nowhere to go but in the back of his car and it destroyed my front wing and nose. I had to go back to the pits to change it and from then on scoring points was out of reach.
Frédéric Vasseur: This is our worst weekend so far on the points scoring level but the performance and potential of both James and Esteban were very good and the team did their best to prepare a fast car. In Monaco more than anywhere else, the smallest delay in preparation costs you dearly and that’s what hampered our progress with Esteban hitting the barriers after a few laps in practice while James struggled to put his three best sector times together. They both recovered really well in the race and did not get the results they deserved because of external issues we could not do anything about.