Jolyon Palmer's GP2 Diary - Monaco
Dodging traffic on your track walk and debris landing on your lap after a first corner pile-up - all part of a difficult week in Monaco for Sky's GP2 columnist.
By Jolyon Palmer. Last Updated: 17/09/13 1:25pm
After a three hour car journey from Nice airport to our Nice hotel, (it should have taken 20 minutes but for some suspect directions from team manager Colin Hale) I arrived for the weekend very late on Tuesday evening.
Monaco is such a special place to drive, with huge undulation, a very bumpy track surfaces and a great atmosphere all weekend. We do our usual track walk on the Wednesday because everything is brought forward a day in Monaco for us, so we start driving on Thursday.
The track walk is crazy because it is still being used as a public road so we are walking round, trying to look at curbs and braking markers, whilst being faced with traffic from all directions, mostly Ferraris and Lamborghinis!
The part of the weekend I like the most at Monaco is qualifying. It is commitment like no other, going flat out, brushing the walls on either side. On my qualifying lap I remember nudging the wall at the swimming pool and grazing at a few other points and when the car came back we could see the scrapes from the barriers but no actual structural damage.
I was drawn in the second group for qualifying with the rest of the even numbered cars and it was quite nice to be able to watch the others take to the track for the first 15 minutes. In my session I gave it everything and ended up 0.05 seconds off outright pole, which left me fourth quickest but only sixth on the grid because of the way the grid is drawn up. I actually ended up starting behind someone I was nearly a second quicker than. I started 6th last year and ended the weekend with a win though so all was not lost.
I defended driving standards in GP2 on Sky's F1 Show in the week leading up to Monaco, saying it was just one particular driver. The start of the GP2 feature race was just ridiculous though as a number of people must have forgotten to brake at turn one. Cecotto on pole ran Fabio Leimer straight into the wall at turn one, whilst Kevin Ceccon rammed into the back of Sam Bird damaging both cars heavily.
I had to avoid both of these incidents and in doing so Julian Leal steamed into the back of me, spinning me broadside across the track and blocking the whole track. He ended up launching up the back of me with his front wing fairly close to my head and part of his car actually landed on my lap. Fuming, I got out of the car, realising my Monaco weekend was effectively over through absolutely no fault of my own and with it, any realistic chance of coming back into the championship fight.
Some people like Coletti were also out of the car but for some reason were given the chance to rejoin, unlike myself and a number of unfortunate others. I didn't really bother watching the race but I was aware of what was going on. I was amazed Ceccon wasn't penalised after the race as he was a major catalyst in causing the incident at the first corner but because both he and Bird were able to repair their cars and finish one-two it didn't seem to concern the stewards.
Cecotto getting a race ban was obviously a major talking point after the race. It was a harsh reaction to a simple mistake but when you take into account all of his misdemeanours over the season I think this was the last straw. To be honest I don't think it was much of a penalty; he was due to be starting last anyway in a Monaco Sprint Race. He wouldn't be able to do anything much apart from risk a penalty for Silverstone so for him not racing was probably no big deal.
Our Sprint Race showed exactly how GP2 is so unpredictable. Adrian Quaife Hobbs, who qualified last for the Feature Race ended up on pole for the Sprint. He drove a good race to finish second behind Stefano Coletti and finished up with a podium which I bet he thought was never possible after qualifying. I was pleased for him to get a good result and a lucky break for once though. There were a few others who I wasn't so happy to see get lucky in it all though!
It's nice to finish our weekend on the Saturday in Monaco, it gives us a chance to relax after the sprint race without having to dash off to get a flight. Normally on the Saturday night we get a chance to party. Last year it was a great excuse to celebrate my win, this year it was more a drowning sorrows sort of night, but either way it is great fun and nice for us drivers to let our hair down a bit and have some fun.
I was fortunate enough to be on a yacht for the first time in Monaco this year thanks to my sponsors, Comma. They had a load of guests down and it was great to chat to them throughout the weekend. I enjoy that part of the job; it is nice to interact with sponsors and fans. We were stationed down by the chicane for the Grand Prix, so it was a nice viewing spot as well!
I thought the Grand Prix was a really good race. It was nice to see drivers having to work for their overtakes for once and not just relying on DRS to make a move on the straight. Perez and Sutil had really good drives and I thought it was a shame Perez came into some criticism after the race.
Yes his move on Raikkonen was very ambitious, but at least he was showing a huge amount of fight on a track that is extremely hard to overtake on. Raikkonen only defended once Perez was already committed; hence he ended up squeezing Perez into the wall. There was nothing Perez could do to avoid the incident in the end.
Now we have around a month off until Silverstone whilst F1 go to Canada. Silverstone is my home race, I know the track very well and was on the podium there last year in the feature race so I have high hopes. In the mean time I'm off on holiday for a couple of weeks which will be nice to relax before focussing on a busy few weekends in July.
Follow Jolyon on Twitter - @JolyonPalmer
Or check out his official website - jolyonpalmer.com