Both GP2 races in Monaco proved to be typically action-packed, involving safety cars and a red flag. Making the most of all the opportunities presented, both on the track and in the strategy, proved to be an essential ingredient to success.
|Palmer won the feature race
The P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft compounds were nominated for Monaco, with three sets of soft and two sets of supersoft per car for the weekend.
Unusually, qualifying was held on Thursday and split into two groups, with the feature race held on Friday morning and the sprint race on Saturday afternoon. Monaco was the first race this season where the supersoft has been nominated.
All the drivers used the supersoft in qualifying to set their fastest time. But unlike Formula One, the GP2 drivers are not obliged to start the race on the tyres they used in qualifying, and there were split strategies for the 42-lap feature race.
Polesitter Jolyon Palmer (DAMS) started on the soft tyre, whereas Mitch Evans (Russian time) started from P2 on the supersoft. This helped Evans make a better start and take the lead going into the first corner. However, after a safety car, Palmer was able to take advantage of the extra durability of the soft compound to take the lead.
Despite a red flag on lap 12, the Briton was able to maintain his advantage once the race got going again half an hour later and set a series of fastest laps on the soft compound. A second safety car, on lap 25, meant that all the front-runners took the opportunity to make their mandatory pit stop.
The top three finished within 0.6 seconds of each other despite adopting very different strategies. Felipe Nasr was third for Carlin, having started from 18th on the grid. The Brazilian started on the supersoft but made the switch to the soft as early as was allowed (lap seven) and then gained track position as those in front of him pitted.
|Richelmi won the sprint race
Palmer, who now leads the championship by nearly 50 points, commented: “I lost a position to Mitch at the start, but he was on the option tyres so I wasn’t particularly worried about that. I had a good pace and managed to pass him back. The red flag period changed the race really. It was important to get ahead of Mitch before the red flag because then everyone was on the same strategy afterwards. Then we had to focus on a 30-lap race instead of a 42-lap race.”
The 30-lap sprint race – with no mandatory pit stops – was won by local man Stephane Richelmi from pole, using the soft tyre.
While a number of drivers took the life out of their tyres by engaging in on-track battles, the DAMS driver managed his used softs perfectly, to the extent that he was able to build up a decisive advantage in the closing stages of the race after yet another safety car.
: “We know in Monaco that the degradation is not high, but you still need to save the tyres, which is why in the beginning I was not pushing too much. After the safety car we had 10 laps to go and I began to push harder. The pace was really good until the end. I’m sure the tyres could have lasted 10 more laps.”
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola concluded
: “As usual, Monaco was characterised by safety cars and racing incidents. Knowing how to make the most of those opportunities, and select a race strategy that took into account the possibility of this happening, was the key to success. Both Palmer and Richelmi maximised every opportunity that came their way and managed their tyres perfectly, despite the unpredictability of the circumstances.”
This year’s GP2 season takes in 11 rounds and 22 races. The next round of the Pirelli-equipped series takes place in Austria from June 20-22.
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