A heavily reduced field greeted the fans this week, as seven drivers were non-starters. In a critical twist for the WCC title both Ferraris were absent, so too Mercedes star NightFire, McLaren's milky, Sauber's Sora, RBR's Nobody and STR's thisisaverylongname. NightFire, Sora, Nobody and longname are expected to return for Montreal, whilst Williams' rogue eclipse will miss his first race of the season.
The reduced grid meant crucial championship points were there for the taking for anyone who could last the distance, but the weather forecast made that a significant if - 100% chance of rain for the race.
With everyone focusing on how they were going to deal with wet race conditions, qualifying became an opportunity to scorch some options and go for flat out pace. SOJ was once again the class of the field with a blistering 1:15.650, a time that would earn him pole position by nearly 2 seconds over the rest of the grid - "Didn't really go to plan. I went out early and set an ok lap time. I knew I could do a mid 1:14, so would have liked to do that but was very happy to get pole here".
Williams' rogue eclipse again qualified well managing a 1:17.628 for P2 and Lotus' Ploddy continued his strong run in recent weeks to take P3 on his customary third quali run. Things didn't go as smoothly for fellow Lotus driver EffSea, damaging two wings on his way to P5. Splitting the Enstone boys was Sauber's PessimistPrime in P4. Williams' rookie zdievo showed better qualifying pace this week in P7.
With rain falling as the field lined up on the grid, all eyes were on the Sauber of PessimistPrime and the extraordinary sight of option tyres. The rookie seemed bemused by the bizarre error - "Not sure what went wrong with the tyres for the race... not good yet strangely hilarious". Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn is reportedly furious at the debacle, no doubt the Sauber pit crew will be on top of their game in Canada. The rest of the field got under way on intermediates, with the exception of RBR's Fredzfrog, who opted for full wets.
The leaders got away cleanly, with everyone rather tentative due to the conditions. Further down the field things didn't go quite so smoothly, in part due to the poor get away of the Sauber. Fredzfrog made a strong pass around the outside of Toggsie and zdievo took evasive action up the inside of St Devote to avoid the rear end of STR's Amril. This caused him to illegally jump a number of cars and popped him back on track in the middle of the pack and was spun sideways, damaging his front wing. Further up the road, Fredz spun at Massenet and was t-boned by the sliding Sauber. The wets proved to be the wrong choice for the Red Bull driver has he struggled for grip almost as much as Prime - as evidenced by the awkward pit entry of both drivers at the end of the lap: a bizarre contact in which Prime was awarded a second drive through penalty. By the end of lap 1, SOJ retained the lead from rogue and Ploddy; Prime, zdievo and Fredz had received drive through penalties and the chaos was just beginning. It would be a very busy day for the stewards.
Ploddy led briefly after rogue destroyed his front wing at St Devote and then SOJ spun at Loews, but the McLaren driver soon regained P1. Things weren't going well for zdievo either, picking up his second penalty for crossing the pit exit line after getting his wing repaired. Fredz was forced around the track again on the wets due to his penalty and was lapped by SOJ for his trouble. There were penalties and spins for all as the race continued: SOJ picked up a drive through after cutting Nouvelle, EffSea was penalised for causing a collision, Fredz received more penalties for corner cutting, Ploddy was penalised for t-boning a sideways Amril, rogue received a penalty for blocking after a spin at Massenet destroyed another wing.
With all the chaos it was difficult to keep track of cars positions during the early laps. Fredzfrog was black flagged on lap 7 after receiving too many penalties for corner cutting. This decision was perhaps a little tough by the stewards as most of those cuts were done on tyres with no grip. Lap 12 brought the second black flag, this time for the Williams of zdievo after a spin at Massenet - "A very disappointing end to the race for myself and the team when there were very good points to be scored".
Two early penalties to SOJ for cutting Nouvelle put Amril in the lead for the first time in his GP2 career, and he held it until SOJ finally caught him on lap 12 when he pitted - "he has very quick wet weather speed" said the McLaren driver after the race. The championship leader held the lead from there on out, despite some tense moments including narrowly avoiding a major accident at Mirabeau. SOJ was clearly please with his achievement "I am absolutely thrilled to win this race, there are two more that I really want to win and I will be proper chuffed if I manage it". Silverstone and Spa perhaps?
Ploddy's measured performance brought him his second P2 finish in a row and a maiden podium from his team mate EffSea has allowed Lotus to leapfrog Ferrari and Mercedes into second place in the WCC "Stoked I was able to finish the race with only the one pitstop, in the end that's what got me the podium". Team principal Eric Boullier was impressed with the poise shown by his drivers in the difficult conditions "For sure, they were brilliant out there. We can give them a competitive package but when the lights go out it's up to them to deliver the results, and they certainly did that today". The Enstone outfit now find themselves 61 points behind McLaren and right in the mix for the WCC.
Further down the field, Williams' rogue eclipse recovered from a nightmare start to take P4. He was clearly disappointed with his race, commenting that "I made far too many mistakes today, which is disappointing for the team, the car was capable of a better result. I hope we don't look back at the missed opportunity here with regret later in the season". STR's Amril held on for P5 and Sauber's PessimistPrime rounded out the points scorers in P6. Heartbreakingly for Mercedes' Toggsie, he crossed the line 4 laps down on race winner SOJ, dropping him outside the 90% rule and causing him to be classified as a DNF. The silver arrows refused to comment on what was a hard weekend for them.
Be sure to join us next week for what promises to be an action packed round 7 from the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve for the Grand Prix of Canada.
|9||15||iM Amril intel||Toro Rosso||01:30.504||0|
|3||7||Effing Sea||Lotus||+1 lap||26||01:27.562||5||16|
|4||5||rogue eclipse||Williams||+2 laps||25||01:25.347||2||16|
|5||15||iM Amril intel||Toro Rosso||+2 laps||25||01:26.544||9||10|
|DSQ||14||Fredzfrog||Red Bull||+27 laps||0||01:29.651||8||0|