Jolyon Palmer's GP2 Diary - Hungary
The weekend started badly, but finished with a podium in Budapest
By Jolyon Palmer
Last Updated: 01/08/14 10:02am
The last round before the summer break was Budapest, one of my best tracks and one of my favourite cities on the calendar.
There is usually a great vibe over the weekend, starting when we landed at the airport and, as usual there, the passionate fans are waiting for autographs and photos. Hungarian drivers are few and far between – there is no Hungarian in F1, GP2 or GP3, yet the crowd is always large and enthusiastic. I think Budapest is fully deserving of a place on the grand prix calendar.
My weekend didn’t get off to the best start on Friday. Halfway through free practice I was bizarrely driven into by Johnny Cecotto. I saw him coming behind me on a quick lap and got well out of the way at Turn Two. He went in too deep and locked up, clattering into me, damaging my car and puncturing my left front. It was clearly an innocent mistake from him but nonetheless a bit of a silly one that cost both of us track time, some damage and for him a three-place grid penalty. I could only limp back to the pits, put on a spare wheel and do a few practice starts for the remainder of the session with my hobbled car.
Qualifying was difficult for me after missing the track time in practice and I could only end up in sixth after a few more problems that I won’t bore you with! What made matters a bit harder was that my main championship rival, Felipe Nasr, out qualified me for the first time in a year, with his first pole in GP2. He did two laps good enough for pole so no one could dispute his pace on Friday! Campos Racing also put in a great showing to qualify third and fourth which put me back to the third row.
Race One for us was basically decided by a Safety Car on lap six. This meant the drivers who started on options could pit for the prime tyres and re-join at the back of the pack, effectively having a ‘free’ pitstop as the safety car meant they barely lost any time. Unfortunately the drivers who started on the harder prime tyre, like me, couldn’t do the same because the soft tyre would never last for the remaining 31 laps, so we had to fight it out on track with each other, at the same time as trying to pull around a 30 second gap to the guys who had already pitted so we could re-join ahead still much later in the race.
I had a great scrap all race with Nasr, initially for the lead, but then for the edge of the top eight as we couldn’t quite pull enough of a gap to come re-join ahead of Arthur Pic, the leading runner to have stopped early. I could only manage fourth in the end but I was happy to be the leading runner who didn’t get the benefit of the early Safety Car to do their stop. The podium consisted of Pic, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (who started 22nd) and Takuya Izawa (who started 26th), but take nothing away from them, we all knew that a Safety Car could come and have the effect it did but most of us took the risk. They all drove good races because there were plenty of other runners who were on the same strategies as them who didn’t get the results. Pic was strong all weekend and he fully deserved his first win and Campos’ first since their comeback this year.
The Sprint Race was less exciting overall, but I managed to come from sixth to second and finish behind Stoffel Vandoorne. I was really happy with my race, making plenty of moves quite quickly, including taking second from Nasr with a move up the inside into Turn One. After a disappointing Friday it completed a great turnaround for the weekend and I extended my championship lead.
It was also great to be able to race on track with my nearest championship rival for most of the weekend. So often in GP2 at the moment strategy is crucial and being on a different tyre strategy to your rival often results in a lack of meaningful on track battles. But for me it was extremely satisfying to have used the same strategy as Nasr in both races and come out on top in two very good scraps. I hope we can have a few more before the season’s out!
Obviously one of the main talking points was the war of words between the two of us. I think it is a shame that a lot of the attention is focussed on that rather than the race itself. Clearly, I contributed to it with what I said on the podium, but for me it was pretty frustrating to have such an enjoyable battle like that only for him to complain about my racing for the second race in a row.
I also really don’t like the culture that has come in to motorsport of complaining on team radio just to try and get another driver a penalty. The obvious example is the complaints on team radio during the battle between Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel at Silverstone; I don’t think it’s something the fans really want to see either.
I didn’t manage to catch a lot of the F1 on Sunday either as I dashed off to Greece for a week’s holiday... I always seem to miss the best races! F1 is producing good races more often at the moment though and I think people are starting to come round to the idea of the ‘new’ F1. You have to say, the action is helped at the moment by Lewis Hamilton’s misfortune. It was great to see him recover from the back of the grid to the podium on Sunday though. When his bad luck finally goes I’m sure the rivalry at the front will become intense between him and Rosberg again and it should keep fans on the edge of their seats for the second half of the season.
I have a four week gap now and it is time to relax for a bit and catch my breath after a very busy few weeks. Then we start the season run in, beginning with Spa and Monza. The rivalries are heating up in GP2 as we get to the business end of the season and it’s important to keep working hard and doing the job we’ve done so far this year. There are still a lot of points on the table, so anything can happen.
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