Jolyon Palmer's GP2 diary - Hungary
A season of frustration was banished for our columnist at the Hungaroring after an alternative tyre strategy delivered the second GP2 win of his career
By Jolyon Palmer. Last Updated: September 17, 2013 1:34pm
Finally! After weeks of moaning about pretty much everything; the weather, team radio, the stewarding, racing idiots on track, I can finally return from Hungary as a 2013 GP2 race winner!
Budapest is one of my favourite cities. There is a very good atmosphere around, especially on the Grand Prix weekend and fortunately we were staying in the heart of the city this year, near the river Danube. We arrived on Wednesday late afternoon and I, like a lot of the GP2 field I think, was greeted at the airport by a load of fans wanting autographs and signed photos.
I'm always happy to meet fans and talk to them and I think this shows how much passion the Hungarian fans have for motorsport. It is also a testament to GP2 I think - the profile of the series has risen dramatically over the past couple of seasons, largely thanks to Sky Sports, but also thanks to the close and frantic racing that usually takes place.
On Wednesday evening I met up with Marcus Ericsson for dinner; we are good friends after being team-mates last season and it is good to catch up with him before the racing gets underway for the weekend. In the sprint race at Nurburgring I passed him around the outside of the hairpin on the final lap and I joked with him that he should watch out in Hungary because I will do an even better move around the outside for the lead... Amazingly that actually ended up happening on Saturday, albeit it was very short lived!
Palmer's tyre gamble pays off
I had a reasonable day on Friday and lined up seventh on the grid for the feature race. The times in qualifying were very close as usual, but in GP2 you know that so long as you are in the top ten for a feature race anything can happen.
On Friday nights we always have a lot of thought about the strategy and we had a plan ready on Saturday to start on the option tyres. On the grid however after being told that everyone ahead was on options I decided we should do a late change and go for the primes to start. The race panned out perfectly and the pace and consistency we had was extremely good, and it meant that by the time I came out of the pits, after a quick stop by the Carlin mechanics, I was side-by-side with Marcus for the lead. He just got ahead as I was on cold tyres but I was absolutely determined to take the win and was pushing very hard in what was probably one of my best battles in GP2.
Unfortunately I had a long brake pedal as they overheated a bit in the pits, so I was struggling to slow the car down and kept locking up. After a couple of failed attempts, I was starting to run out of ideas, as he was defending very well and was late on the brakes everywhere. Hungary is one of the hardest tracks to overtake and in the Grand Prix even Sebastian Vettel was struggling to pass Jenson Button despite being on better tyres, with DRS and KERS. But I finally passed Marcus in a move stretching a few corners, from the inside of turn one and to turn three and I was extremely relieved as I pulled away for the win.
On Sunday I only had soft tyres left because of the strategy we had used for the feature race. I was almost as pleased with my drive though. Even though it was an under the radar drive to 12th I managed to keep the tyres alive and without a bad start dropping me to 13th, I feel I could have been mixing it for some solid points again. I think the 15-second winning margin on Saturday and the way we kept the soft tyres going on Sunday shows that we probably could have won the feature race switching to the options, but given the circumstances and the recent run of bad luck I'm glad we took no chances and went all out for victory.
Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to celebrate my win on Sunday night as I was straight back to England and up to Snetterton in Norfolk on Monday chauffeuring/driver coaching my brother Will on a test day in his Ginetta Junior. It's not all as glamorous as you may think! He helps me and the team out with strategy calls on my weekends though so after a winning strategy in Hungary it's the least I could do.
We have the summer break now and I don't think my win could have come at a better time. Carlin are now in a dominant position in the teams championship and I am feeling energized and have a new confidence for the end of the season. We have a month off now, where I must maintain my focus for Spa and come back ready to push for another win.
Follow Jolyon on Twitter: @JolyonPalmer