Palmer and iSport turn their luck around in Monaco
28 May 2012
The sight of Jolyon Palmer's car pulling off the track at the start of a GP2 race had becoming something of a recurring theme - and a positive nightmare for Palmer and iSport International. But having decided to build a brand new car from scratch in the short interval between Barcelona and Monaco, the team reaped a big reward with victory in the sprint race this weekend.
"I have to say a big thank you to iSport for all their hard work after an unlucky start to the season," said a beaming Palmer. "We've been really quick, and our four weekends I think have been the worst luck ever in motor racing history on my side," he laughed. "I've only started 3 races before this weekend from the grid.
"I got off to an awesome start to jump into the lead, and after the safety car I was able to build a good lead." While that lead had been whittled down to almost nothing by the end of the race, Palmer confirmed that everything had been under control all along and that there had been no dramas: "I just managed the gap to Max Chilton without taking any risks."
"This weekend has really kick started our season and given everybody a boost," said team principal Paul Jackson. "It is a very special occasion for Jolyon, and confirms the huge progress he has made and his growing stature as a real contender."
The team almost made it a double podium celebration, with Marcus Ericsson coming close to breaking into the top three during the race.
"Marcus came from 7th through to 4th," pointed out Jackson. "Marcus has also shown that without bad luck or stupid incidents, he is back at the front where he belongs."
Instead, Palmer was joined on the podium by Carlin's Max Chilton and Caterham's Giedo van der Garde.
"That was an amazing race today," said Chilton afterwards. "I was pretty lucky to avoid the accidents on the first lap, but I made a good start and was ahead of most of the chaos I think.
"I was held up behind [James] Calado for a long time which was frustrating, as I could see all the carbon fibre flying off his car," he continued. "Once he'd pitted I was able to push hard and the car felt fantastic."
The delay behind the stricken Lotus GP car had sealed the deal as far as challenging for the ultimate race victory went, however. "I was able to make up ten seconds on Palmer but unfortunately there wasn't enough time left to do anything more than that. Second is still a fantastic result though and to get it at Monaco makes it even more special."
For van der Garde it was his second podium of the weekend - particularly special at somewhere like Monaco.
"I'm really happy: it's not normal, two podiums in Monaco, but we managed it! I'm very happy also for the team, and for myself," he told the GP2 Media Service at the post-race press conference. "It was a good start and I was just patient, patient, patient and in the end I was flying, some really fast laps in the end.
"Now we have to work hard again and keep the momentum going," he pointed out. "Let's go to Valencia: I like the track there, so let's see."
But as good as it had been for some, the Monaco sprint race was a disaster for the Trident Racing team despite having their man start on pole position.
"The start hasn't been one of my best, although I didn't lose to much time compared to Calado, who was alongside me," said Stéphane Richelmi who led the field off the starting grid. "I was checking his car in the mirrors when I saw Palmer pulling alongside me on the right. When we got close at Ste. Devote, where the track gets narrow, I just couldn't move. I didn't block Palmer but Calado, who was behind me, did not brake and hit me.
"It's pretty bitter because even though Palmer had gone through, there was all the race in front of us," he sighed. "A second place would also have rewarded the team for their great job over the weekend."
His team mate Julian Leal barely made it any further into the race before getting caught up on the Massenet melée at the top of the hill that eliminated eight cars in all from the race. His car wasn't directly involved, but he stalled the car as he waited to get through the multi-car road block.
“In the chaotic situation created by the crash on lap 1 I hoped to find some space to go around the backup," explained Leal. "Unfortunately, a tyre from another car was in front of my car and the stewards rightfully helped the drivers to come out of their cars before removing the debris.
"I kept my engine on for a lot of time and the temperatures rose: once I got going again everything seemed right but then the engine cut off and I was forced to retire," he added.
Over at Racing Engineering, the outcome was simply rather mixed - with Fabio Leimer and Nathanaël Berthon both surviving the first lap chaos but Leimer becoming a casualty of the Armco barriers on lap 9 when trying to pass his team mate for position.
"The start was really good and I was lucky I got away without any damage," recalled Leimer. "After that I saw I could go faster than the cars ahead of me, I waited for some laps and saw no one made any mistakes. When I saw Nat make a little mistake I tried to pass him. I pushed too much though when on the curbs and I had oversteer which forced me to open up the steering and I hit the wall. Unfortunately the damage was too heavy to continue in the race."
Berthon went on to maintain seventh place to the chequered flag. “I think I was lucky at the start when I had to avoid the car stalling in front of me. After that I was lucky again to avoid Cecotto, who touched with Gonzalez.
"Then I just raced to stay on track and to keep my position as it's so difficult to overtake in Monaco," he said. "I am happy I could score points for four races in a row now and hope to continue like this in Valencia. I would also like to thank the team for the car they gave me.”