Jolyon Palmer's GP2 diary - Spain
Sky Sports F1's GP2 columnist on how he feared his Barcelona weekend may never even have happened at all and the frustration of losing a podium
By Jolyon Palmer. Last Updated: 23/05/13 11:24am
Let me take you back to the Bank Holiday weekend leading up to Barcelona, where we were lucky enough to enjoy some great weather at home, so I thought it would be fun to have a quad bike race with my brother Will.
I was coming up behind him, on a tarmac road, and went for a move just as he chopped me 'Cecotto style'. I mounted his rear wheels and before I knew it, was upside down on the tarmac, barrel rolling with the quad bike. Immediately I got up and felt a lot of pain: I had grazes all over my body, my head was sore, but it was my left foot that had taken the biggest hit. I managed to limp away from the scene and lie down and kept it rested, praying that everything would sort itself out.
I woke up on Tuesday morning in agony and couldn't walk at all, my foot had swollen twice its size and I couldn't put any pressure on it. I was devastated, convinced there was no way I would be able to race at the weekend. Even recovery for Monaco seemed in doubt, as you need to be able to generate a huge amount of force on the brakes, all coming through your left foot. I went for an X-Ray and fortunately was given the all clear that nothing was broken.
Over the next two days it improved significantly but even as I got to the track on Thursday, well dosed up on painkillers, I wasn't sure if I would be racing and I'm sure a few people round the paddock will have noticed a few grazes and a bit of a limp. Fortunately by Friday I was able to drive and from then on my only irritation with it was being continually asked by everyone around me how my (now ok) foot was!
Barcelona is a nice venue to come to start the European season. There is always a good crowd and a real buzz around the place. Every driver knows the track well as it is used a lot for winter testing both in GP2, GP3 and F1. It is a high downforce circuit with long, relatively fast corners that make it particularly tough on tyres. With only a half hour practice, set-ups are usually quite difficult to call, but with the testing at Barcelona both the drivers and teams are dialled in which makes it a very tight field.
After only qualifying 11th we were under pressure coming into the races, on a track that is normally quite difficult to overtake on. The feature race was fairly mixed up with strategies though and after the stops and a couple of opportunistic passes I found myself second behind Robin Frijns.
With tyre degradation a big concern in Barcelona we were all trying to save tyres for the duration of the race, and I was very comfortable until four laps to go when I had a knock from my team-mate, Felipe Nasr. This damaged the floor and cut my right rear tyre meaning I then had to defend heavily for the last few laps to hang onto the position. I managed to finish third on the road which I was really happy about, my first podium of the season and it left me fourth in the standings.
Just as I thought the day was over though I was called to the stewards to explain my part in an incident with Sam Bird. I recounted my side of the story and gave my opinion on the accident but in the end they still decided that it was worth a 20-second penalty. Although I disagreed, I had to accept their decision and I don't want to argue now whether it was a penalty offence or not as nothing can be changed.
I was however disappointed when watching the race back at the number of other drivers who committed the same offence as me and weren't punished. I counted at least three others who squeezed their opponent wide on the exit of a corner whilst ahead and no one appeared to bat an eyelid.
The only difference between my incident with Bird and a few others, such as my team-mate, Nasr being squeezed out by Coletti, is that Nasr was pushed off onto Astroturf and backed off, whilst Bird went onto the grass and spun. It is difficult to take when the same offence gets punished in one instance and in another it is praised as 'excellent defensive driving'. It is certainly something I will be hoping to clear up with the stewards before Monaco as inconsistency makes it hard to know the boundaries in racing hard but also racing fair.
Anyway it is what it is and you have to pick yourself up. I started 10th for race two and managed a good recovery race to come home fourth and score some more points. Overall I'm very happy with the weekend. Sure, I would have preferred to keep my Saturday podium and the 14 points that were taken away, but I had two great races, some hard fought battles at the front and that is really what I enjoy most about racing. Given that a few days earlier I had convinced myself I would be sidelined for a couple of weekends, I really can't complain too much!
So up next for us is Monaco in two weeks' time. The race weekend there is really special and it is one of my favourite tracks so I shall be preparing for it as best I can with some time on a simulator and some meetings with my engineers at Carlin to make sure we can give it our best shot and hopefully take a win as I did in 2012. In between that I shall be staying off quad bikes and pretty much wrapping myself in cotton wool, making sure I don't have any more fitness scares - I feel I have learnt a bit of a lesson!
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Jolyon is also a guest on this Friday night's edition of The F1 Show. Don't miss it!