Jolyon Palmer's GP2 Diary - Singapore
Our GP2 columnist looks back on what he regards as his best ever race
By Jolyon Palmer - @JolyonPalmer. Last Updated: 27/09/13 12:17pm
The only thing I don't like about Singapore is the flight over. The place is absolutely awesome. The hotel we stay in is in the heart of the city and we are able to walk wherever we want to go, which makes a nice change to endless miles in a hire car.
Some of the buildings and scenery around the Marina Bay are incredible and the track itself is a real challenge. It must be the bumpiest circuit on the calendar, you have to hammer the kerbs everywhere for a quick time and the barriers are always close, how a proper street circuit should be. I love the challenge of pushing the car to the limit, sliding around just millimetres from the wall at times.
I arrived in Singapore on the Monday evening to acclimatise to the temperature, humidity and time difference. After a couple of days chilling out and having a look around the city I was absolutely raring to go by Friday afternoon. I had a mindset to just go out and give it everything from the first lap of Free Practice. After two flying laps I was one second clear of the field and I kept ahead until the chequered flag, although my rivals got closer by the end.
Qualifying went far from smoothly though; I didn't put in a great first lap and couldn't improve on my first set of tyres as there were a couple of yellow flags. We pitted early to try and get a clear run together for the second set but then I was caught out by a red flag as someone had crashed into the wall.
When the session restarted I just got my head down and focussed on doing that one clear lap that could give me my first GP2 pole position and I managed it. It was extremely tight at the end though. On my in lap, when I had accepted I couldn't go any faster, I was told Fabio Leimer was on a quick lap behind. I was trying so hard to see the big screens around the track to see what was happening that I nearly just drove straight into the wall at low speed - It was very nearly an embarrassing way to come back to Parc Ferme!
Unfortunately I made a mess of the start on Saturday. The start process in GP2 is very complicated, to get a good start you have to have no wheel spin, but as the cars are so powerful and we don't have as much telemetry to make pre-set clutch and throttle options like F1 it can be difficult to avoid. I dropped the clutch slightly too quickly, anti-stall kicked in and I fell down to fifth at the first corner. The next hour I would probably describe as my finest hour in a racing car though. I passed James Calado and Fabio Leimer fairly quickly and began an intense chase of my team mate, Felipe Nasr, for the win.
He pitted a couple of laps earlier than me and made use of his better tyres to build a 13 second lead after I came out of the pits, with 13 laps remaining. I got my head down, with nothing to lose and just went for it. It was such an enjoyable few laps, I felt great in the car and was really dialled in, just reeling off a series of qualifying style laps and eventually I could see Felipe getting closer and closer ahead.
With four laps to go I was right onto the back of him. He is a tough racer so I knew it would be difficult to pass him. I was very happy to do it at the first opportunity and relieved as I breezed away for a comfortable win in the end.
Jolyon sprays the winners champagne
I read and hear comments after every race and it was amusing to see some people (mainly Brazilians) angry at both myself and Carlin for allowing me to pass Felipe and damage his chance of winning the title.
Firstly in GP2 every driver is fighting for his career, we are all looking to impress and are not paid by the team to do a job for them. I am in GP2 for one reason, to win as many races as I can and try and win the title. This year I can't win the title but I can still win races - every time I step into the car it is a chance to impress people in the F1 paddock. Of course I would love to help Carlin win the Teams' Championship as well now we are in a position to do that in Abu Dhabi.
Secondly, after races such as Spa this year I am sure I don't owe Felipe anything. He is a very good driver and if he was to win the title I would be pleased for him but certainly he hasn't earned enough racing respect for me to compromise my own races to help him.
The team did an amazing job all weekend and both of us were in a league of our own. Unfortunately we snookered each other into having no tyres for Sunday but with the way GP2 is at the moment you have to go for the better tyre strategy to be safe to win the race. As it panned out, our dominance was enough (25 seconds clear of Calado and 40 seconds clear of Dillman on the same strategy) to be comfortably 1-2 even on a more conventional strategy but these things are always easy to say in hindsight.
It was very nice to receive praise and congratulations from many people in the F1 paddock as well over the weekend including Jenson Button and last year's champion, Davide Valsecchi. A real benefit of racing in GP2 is that influential people are watching the races and seeing what goes on. It was great to be able to provide an entertaining race for the viewers as well and I think GP2 really does a really good job with no overtaking aids.
On Sunday night it was nice to be able to go out and celebrate, to complete a really good weekend. I woke up the next morning feeling a bit worse for wear and had to head straight to the airport for the flight home. After a bumpy 14 hour flight I now realise that there is one thing worse than the flight over to Singapore... the flight back!
Follow Jolyon on Twitter: @JolyonPalmer