Monaco WS 2005: Montanari all the way
22 May 2005
Starting from pole position, Christian Montanari remained unopposed in the first World Series by Renault round to support Formula One, clinching a comfortable victory on the mean streets of Monaco.
The Draco driver took full advantage of his pole position to lead into Ste-Dévote and, despite Adrian Valles hitting the brakes hard as he attempted to make up ground, the head of the field got through without any problems. Montanari's team-mate, Markus Winkelhock, however, veered off to the right of the corner and was out on the spot - a major blow after setting the pace in Thursday practice.
Montanari quickly built up a lead of almost three seconds on the first lap while, behind him, the order remained largely unchanged from that of the grid, with Jaap van Lagen, Valles, Robert Kubica, Tristan Gommendy, Milos Pavlovic, Enrico Toccacelo, Damien Pasini and Daniel la Rosa following in line.
The inexperience of several drivers told even in the early stages, with errors delaying Tomas Kostka and Giovanni Tedeschi, who both spun, and removing Karun Chandhok and Frédéric Vervisch, who both ran into the barriers.
Despite the mayhem at the back of the field, Montanari gradually increased his lead, putting together a series of fastest laps to ease away from the chasing van Lagen, Valles and Kubica, who had, in turn, broken away from the rest of the field, led by Gommendy.
Felix Porteiro was the next to go, crashing out of twelfth position at Massenet, but not coming to rest until Casino Square. The stewards deemed the incident treatable without the safety car allowing the field to continue unabated even after the trouble of Thursday.
After ten laps, Montanari's lead had been trimmed back to 2.5secs as van Lagen pulled away from Valles, who was now being closely pursued by Kubica. Gommendy continued to lap on his own in fifth place, and the gap behind him grew further when Milos Pavlovic, who had been doing a tremendous job of fighting off Enrico Toccacelo's attacks, was forced to abandon. Promoted to sixth spot behind the Italian was Damien Pasini, who was putting in a great race performance on his home territory.
Despite van Lagen's stealth attack continuing to the halfway point of race, Montanari appeared to have things under control, the Draco driver perfectly capable of keeping a three-second lead over his Dutch pursuer. Not quite so controlled despite the absence of any real pressure, Gommendy lost a part of his front wing against the barrier and Toccacelo, who was by then lapping the quickest in the race, closed up on the Frenchman.
More important incidents also continued down the order, with Tedeschi spinning for a second time, this time with terminal consequences. Rookie Medhi Bennani, who was also lapping near the back of the field, then made a costly mistake at the Swimming Pool chicane and, due to the dangerous position in which his car was left, the safety car finally made an appearance.
The race resumed with four laps remaining and, with the drivers having been bunched up, changes in the running order were to be expected. Montanari, however, managed the situation perfectly, moving a few lengths ahead on the restart. Despite the earlier loss of his wing, Gommendy also moved forward, passing Kubica for fourth place on the last lap, but there was no such luck for late call-up Alex Lloyd, whose DAMS entry caught the barrier on the penultimate corner…
“The race went off smoothly, without any problems, but it was hard to maintain the tempo from a physical point of view," Montanari reported, "I was a little bit apprehensive when the safety car was brought out, but I was able to handle the situation.”
The San Marino driver rattled off the last few laps untroubled, and was joined on the podium by van Lagen and Valles, who had driven similarly controlled races throughout.
“I got off to a very good start, but I couldn't get past Christian," the Dutchman admitted, "After the safety car was brought out, which could have been my opportunity, I had a problem with first and second gear.”
Zolder race winners Kubica and Toccacelo finished fifth and sixth behind Gommendy, with Pasini, Daniel la Rosa, Ryo Fukuda and Simon Pagenaud rounding out the top ten.