Full feature race 1 results and times
It was far from a straightforward and easy feature race for polesitter Jolyon Palmer in Monaco on Friday, but in the end the DAMS' dominant pace enabled him to overcome an early setback, a lengthy mid-race red flag stoppage and finally a nailbiting finish where he came close to being swamped by Mitch Evans and Felipe Nasr when his own tyres went off badly in the final laps of the time-capped event.
Palmer's first problem came when the lights went out. He struggled to get away off the grid and was immediately passed by Russian Time's Mitch Evans, who had inherited his front row spot after Rio Haryanto was demoted three places for impeding a rival during qualifying. Palmer recovered sufficiently to slot into second place ahead of his DAMS team mate Stephane Richelmi and Johnny Cecotto Jr. with Stoffel Vandoorne (ART) ahead of Stefano Coletti (Racing Engineering) in sixth in what was a commendably clean start to the race through Ste Devote.
Evans pulled out more than a second over the DAMS pair in the opening lap, but his bid to open up an unassailable early lead was thwarted when Facu Regalia's car died on the first lap and crawled to a halt on the inside of Tabac, forcing the race director to trigger a safety car to retrieve the Hilmer Motorsport #12.
Evans led a clean restart on lap 4, and the top six soon started to pull away from Haryanto who had dropped to seventh in the Caterham. A number of drivers mired down the running order sought strategic advantage by coming in as soon as possible for their mandatory pit stops, shedding their short-lived supersoft options for longer-lasting prime soft counterparts: Felipe Nasr (Carlin), Arthur Pic (Campos Racing) and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (Rapax) were all in on lap 7 and Sergio Canamasas (Caterham) and Daniel de Job (MP Motorsport) followed suit next time by.
By this point Evans was clearly struggling with his tyres, and he was a sitting duck for Palmer to get passed him through the inside of Ste Devote on lap 10, leaving him battling to stave off Richelmi from following suit. But the orderly progression of the race was about to have a major spanner thrown in the works.
There was a portent of what was about to happen when Daniel Abt stopped at the hairpin in the second Hilmer car after making contact with Caterham's Alexander Rossi, who was subsequently penalised with a drive-thru for causing the initial collision. Moments later on lap 12, a new incident at the hairpin saw Rene Binder tip his Arden team mate André Negrao into a spin at the same spot: Binder continued, but Negrao was left turned around and stranded in the middle of the track which quickly resulted in a complete blockage. Unsurprisingly, Binder received a ten second drive-thru for his part in triggering the incident.
By the time that the leader Palmer and Evans returned to the hairpin, race control had no choice but to throw a red flag to sort out the situation, which was compounded by several cars falling into safety mode as they tried to return to the start/finish straight where they would be positioned on the grid for a restart, where they were allowed to make a tyre change before the race resumed - although it would not count as their mandatory stop if they had not taken it already.
It was a rolling restart behind the safety car with the race now reduced to a time-capped event with just over 40 seconds left on the clock. Palmer quickly powered away at the front, pulling out a second a lap over Evans who struggled to hold off Richelmi and Cecotto. Palmer's chief concern was being able to make his compulsory stop and return to the track ahead of Nasr, who having started from 18th on the grid was now the highest-placed driver to have completed his requisite visit to pit lane. Palmer's prospects were on target however as he quickly extended a twenty second lead over the Brazilian who was now circulating in 13th.
But Palmer's plan was threatened by a new safety car on lap 24, triggered when Julian Leal ran into the barrier at the exit of the Nouvelle Chicane while battling over eighth place and the reverse grid pole. Palmer responded immediately to the new interruption by pitting, and all seemed to go to plan as both he and Evans exited pit lane comfortably ahead of Nasr. However Palmer had managed to clip one of the tyres stacked alongside his pit box as he'd exited, sending it tumbling across the path of incoming cars which seemed sure to earn him a penalty - but fortunately for him, none was forthcoming. Instead Palmer was now in second place behind Vandoorne who had decided to stay out and not pit under the safety car, with Rapax's Simon Trummer running in third ahead of Evans after opting for the same strategy.
After the restart, there were some brilliant overtaking moves from Canamasas (on Cecotto) and Coletti on multiple drivers including Canamasas and then Evans for effective second place behind Palmer. Coletti still had to get past Trummer who had yet to make his mandatory stop, and the Rapax was clearly struggling on its worn tyres; but the Swiss driver refused to make it easy for Coletti and the two came to blows in the final corner, contact sending both cars headlong into the outside barrier. Trummer was subsequently handed a five-place grid penalty for Saturday's sprint race by the stewards.
Vandoorne took this as a hint to make his delayed pit stop - the last man remaining to do so - promoting Palmer to the lead ahead of Evans, Nasr, Cecotto, Canamasas and Pic, with Haryanto in seventh and Richelmi now setting his sights on the sprint race pole under the reverse grid rules. Further back, there were late retirements for ART's Takuya Izawa (into the barrier on lap 29) and then for Binder and Russian Time's Artem Markelov (who made contact in the entry to the Nouvelle Chicane.) Binder was another recipient of a five place grid penalty for Saturday following a visit to the stewards office.
Palmer looked set for an easy win but his pace dropped off dramatically in the final laps allowing Evans to close up to within a second of the DAMS, although Evans had enough problems of his own with Nasr sniping at his heels. In the end the time-capped nature of the race came to Palmer's salvation and he held on to the chequered flag, with Evans just pipping Nasr for third. Cecotto was over a second further back having held off Canamasas for fourth place, while Palmer's team mate Richelmi succeeded in securing the sprint pole for Saturday afternoon.
Quaife-Hobbs and Tio Ellinas rounded out the points positions ahead of de Jong in 11th, while Raffaele Marciello finished in 12th place despite the on-board fire extinguisher going off in the #5 Racing Engineering shortly after the restart. Conor Daly was in 13th place on his first return to Monaco since the spectacular accident he suffered here while racing in GP3 in 2011.
Full feature race 1 results and times are now available.