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GP2 Monaco 2013: Stefano Coletti makes himself at home

25 May 2013

After the mayhem at the start of Friday's feature race, everyone was hoping for a little more orderly start to proceedings in the Saturday sprint race and might have been feeling a little more optimistic about things given that Johnny Cecotto Jr., who had started the 15-car conflagration the previous day, was being benched for the day as punishment - only the third driver in the history of the GP2 Series to be excluded for a race - and so wouldn't be around to repeat his antics. (See separate story.)

With all the other cars repaired overnight, it was a 25-car grid on Saturday with MP Motorsport's Adrian Quaife-Hobbs taking point for the start of the 30-lap affair with Venezuela GP Lazarus' Rene Binder alongside him on the front row just ahead of Rapax's local boy Stefano Coletti and ART's James Calado. As the drivers prepared for the formation lap, another brief burst of the light rain showers that had plagued F1 qualifying an hour before kicked off again, which left the slick-shod Dallara cars looking nervous as they set off. Fortunately there were no mishaps on the sighting lap and it was indeed still a 25-car grid when the lights went out to mark the start of the race.

A textbook start for Quaife-Hobbs allowed him to lead into Ste Devote, while a struggle for Binder dropped him back to sixth place before he finally got properly underway, which allowed Coletti to slip into second place. Calado initially held third spot, but a nicely audacious pass by Arden's Mitch Evans on the first lap demoted him a spot, and then the ART was picked off by a feisty Felipe Nasr in the Carlin at the start of lap 2 to drop down to fifth place.

After his initial getaway at the front, Quaife-Hobbs was under pressure from Coletti who was using all his local knowledge to apply pressure on the race leader. Finally the Monegasque lined up his move on lap 3 on the exit from the tunnel in the run down to the Nouvelle Chicane, and the Briton had no way of holding him off. Instead, he needed to quickly recover and apply himself towards fending off Evans, Nasr and Calado who were all bearing down on him, making the MP Motorsport car #26 looking strikingly like a mobile bottleneck as far as his pursuers were concerned.

Having gained a place at the start to slot into seventh place ahead of Trident's Kevin Ceccon, Friday race winner Sam Bird was challenged to hand the position back going through the tunnel on lap 11: Ceccon parked himelf on the line into the chicane, forcing the Russian Time driver to overshoot the corner in order to avoid a collision. Knowing that this meant a drive-thru penalty unless he yielded the spot to Ceccon, Bird duly did so and dropped to eighth where he was immediately assailed by DAMS' St├ęphane Richelmi. It was evident that the British racer was suffering form a serious problem and he was soon haemorrhaging positions and heading for technical assistance in pit lane which put him a lap off the pace.

Further back, Carlin's Jolyon Palmer barged his way past EQ8 Caterham's Sergio Canamasas into Rascasse on lap 13 in a virtual replay of the move Abt pulled on Rio Haryanto the day before; but whereas whereas Haryanto had ended up in the barrier and Abt penalised, this time both drivers got away with it and carried on with just a few scuff marks on the no-longer mint paintwork.

Palmer's success was the exception to the rule: Quaife-Hobbs was able to ward off the train of drivers behind him and was even looking stronger as the race wore on and the tyres started to wear out; Nasr's attempt to steal a podium position from Evans on lap 18 was similarly thwarted by the Kiwi. As tightly packed as the field got, still no one quite had the edge necessary to take advantage in terms of gaining track position - at least not until Jake Rosenzweig stuck the nose of his Barwa Addax down the inside of Jon Lancaster through the Lowe's hairpin and half-spun the MP Motorsport, allowing Rosenzweig to take tenth place and also costing Lancaster a further five places as he struggled to recover from the incident.

At the front, Coletti's control of the race had waned as tyre degradation on the Rapax started to bleed off some of his earlier pace and handling; his lead over Quaife-Hobbs was down to just one second, and in total less than four seconds covered the top five cars before a big 14 second gap back to Binder, Ceccon and Richelmi in the battle for sixth place. Coletti was helped out by Quaife-Hobbs having to defend from Evans, and by the conditions now having considerably improved with the rain stopped, the sun out and the track nearly dry.

Coletti duly crossed the line to claim the chequered flag, the first Monaco native to win at the Monaco Grand Prix weekend since 1931 when Louis Chiron had claimed victory. Quaife-Hobbs almost managed to hold on to second while Evans collected his second podium position of the weekend ahead of Nasr and Calado.

Penalties on Saturday were limited to jump-start drive-thrus for Simon Trummer (Rapax) and Daniel Abt (ART). Russian Time's Tom Dillmann joined them at the back when he was forced to pit on lap 7 after sustaining damage to his car, going two laps down in the process, but with Bird also soldiering on to the end after his mid-race problems it was remarkable that all 25 cars made it to the finish of the race in stark contrast to Friday's antics. It seemed that the GP2 field were perhaps rather contrite about the circus show that they had put on the previous day and were determined to show that they could run a clean, professional race which didn't deteriorate into chaos for once; whether that had anything to do with the absence of Cecotto from the field is another matter altogether.

What Monaco definitely did do was solidify Coletti's hold on the GP2 championship lead, especially with the likes of Fabio Leimer and Jolyon Palmer finishing out of the points in both events and Friday race winner Sam Bird also ending up empty-handed on Saturday. Coletti's tally is now up to 120 points with Felipe Nasr his closest competition on 96 points coming out of Monaco, while Bird hangs into third place with 58 points four ahead of Leimer and Calado moves back up into fifth spot ahead of Frijns, Evans and Palmer.

Full race results and championship standings now available.


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