Jolyon Palmer's GP2 Diary - Austria
The DAMS driver reflects on a mixed weekend at the Red Bull Ring and looks forward to heading to his home race as the series leader
By Jolyon Palmer
Last Updated: 26/06/14 10:51am
It’s always nice to come to a new venue. After 11 years off the Formula 1 calendar, the Austrian GP returned last weekend and with it, GP2 made its debut at the track.
When you come to a new track the preparation is slightly different from others. The simulator time is more valuable to get an idea of where the track goes and the finer details of it, but as always it is not quite the same feeling as when you actually get onto track for the first time. There is no previous data to learn from and see what to expect in terms of lap times, tyre wear or any other details; it really is a big step into the unknown.
My weekend started, or nearly didn’t, in bizarre fashion. After being told by the team to walk down to the pitlane for the start of the session and get ready there as the cars were being pushed down, I ambled down with plenty of time, nice and relaxed. It was with about 15 minutes to go that the mechanics suddenly realised I wasn’t where I was supposed to be and in fact I had to drive the car around half the track to the pitlane.
I sprinted off in the rough direction they had pointed to and as I did so, heard the sound of the first cars being fired up and driving round onto the circuit. In a mad rush, I was searching for the car and finally saw some assistance as my data engineer was legging it towards me obviously with the same panic! In a rush I got in the car and just made it out onto the track before they closed it for the start of the session.
Once on the track I was really pleasantly surprised with it. It is a really challenging track with big braking zones and some high-speed corners. There isn’t a lot of grip, especially with our medium tyres, and it is very easy to make mistakes. The length of the lap is also a nice change - only nine corners means that the field is very tightly packed and one tiny error can cost you a lot of places on the grid.
It is important to be precise, but be too cautious and you soon find yourself shuffled down the order as well. The whole field was separated by 1.3 seconds in qualifying which is amazingly close. I was P2, 0.04 off pole but only 0.006 ahead of Nasr in third.
The races for us were also a bit different to others this year. Low tyre wear meant that you could push hard throughout the race and made for some interesting battles all race long. For me, I made a bad start in race one, although I recovered to third. Then a poor strategy, as we stayed out too long on worn options, dropped me further down the order, behind Stoffel Vandoorne. There are overtaking opportunities, though, at the Red Bull Ring but it is quite easy to defend as well if you hold the inside line. I had to settle for fifth.
Then another poor start on Sunday, as I was blocked by Mitch Evans who started directly ahead of me, dropped me down again and I could only recover to sixth. Not the results I was hoping for but still some points towards the championship.
There were some good drives from the rookies though. Both Vandoorne and Raffaele Marciello had previous experience of the Red Bull Ring, but they both drove well all weekend and deserved to be on the podium in the feature race.
There was a really good atmosphere around the place with a big and very vocal crowd, which was great. When we were watching qualifying in the GP2 paddock, there was a slight delay from the TV but you could hear a few seconds before something was going to happen because the crowd were going wild! I think the fact that the circuit is relatively small helps to create a good atmosphere with the fans packed into a smaller area. Also credit to the Austrians and Red Bull because they put on a great show throughout the weekend, unlike some other new venues in the past years, it was clear that everyone around was very happy that Austria was hosting a grand prix again.
The F1 was great to watch. Williams did a great job in qualifying to lock out the front-row and looked like they could take the fight to Mercedes for the first half of the race. It was slightly disappointing to see such a conservative strategy from them in not trying to fight off the Mercedes. I’m surprised they didn’t try and cover off Lewis Hamilton with one of their drivers at least, to see if they could beat them in a straight fight. Even if they lost out in the end it was very likely they would have still finished third and fourth. Still, it was a very good performance from them and nice to see them running properly at the front again.
So now we have a two-week break. It’s not much of a break at all for me because I’ll be working hard at the workshop with the team and have a few other commitments in the meantime as well. Next up is Silverstone, which I am really excited about. Since the start of the year I have been targeting leading the championship coming into my home race weekend, and I have managed to do that quite comfortably. I have always gone well at Silverstone in the past and I’m hoping that with the support of friends, family, and hopefully the British crowd we can have a good and exciting weekend.
Follow Jolyon on Twitter: @JolyonPalmer