Jolyon Palmer's GP2 Diary - Spain
Two podium finishes saw Jolyon extend his championship lead
By Jolyon Palmer - @JolyonPalmer
Last Updated: 16/05/14 12:05pm
The free practice session is very important to get off on the right note for the weekend and topping that really gave myself and DAMS the perfect start. Unfortunately I couldn't quite go on to take pole position later on Friday as my team-mate, Stephane Richelmi, put in a very good lap to pip me by just one tenth, so I would have to start the Feature Race from second on the grid.
The Feature Race start was aborted very late though because of a stalled car somewhere in the field. This late call caused problems with some drivers, who were eagerly anticipating the start, and in the small mix up that followed they panicked and stalled the car. Unfortunately for him, Richelmi was one of these drivers, from his hard-earned pole position, which meant I then took up the effective pole and started the race at the next attempt.
From a decent start, I ran three wide at the start with Mitch Evans and Stefano Coletti and all of us were intent on taking the lead. I backed off first and watched as the other two ploughed into each other under braking for turn one. It was quite a heart-stopping moment being sandwiched between these two guys, with nowhere to go, but in the end I resumed the lead on the exit and was fortunate enough to escape with just some light wing damage from a clip with Coletti.
We then set about doing the race we had planned together beforehand and everything was going perfectly for the win, until Johnny Cecotto, on his alternative prime-option strategy, emerged from the pits on brand new soft tyres right on my tail for the win, with only a handful of laps to go. Being on very used, hard tyres at this point, I couldn't do anything to defend and he took the lead and a very surprising win from 16th on the grid. I was happy to at least hold of Felipe Nasr who was on the same strategy as me for second.
It's probably about the most frustrated I've been in the car when I saw what was happening. The strategy is a gamble at the moment, because clearly Cecotto's prime-option strategy was quicker, however if there had been a Safety Car anytime between lap 6 and 25 then he would have been absolutely nowhere all weekend, because he needed around a 32-second gap to come out in the lead but under Safety Car conditions this would have been completely eradicated and he would surely have ended up outside the top ten and starting down the field for the Sunday's race as well.
It's frustrating when we as a team do everything right on the weekend but because we qualify at the front, we do the slightly safer strategy and get beaten by someone who has been over a second off the pace throughout practice and qualifying, but has taken a punt on the strategy and it's lucked in for him. The irony is that if we had qualified on the edge of the top ten, we probably would have had taken the risk on the strategy and therefore would have stood a better chance of winning the race.
I think if Evans had not had the crash at the first corner he could have won the race convincingly because he was on the right strategy and starting at the front, it was a bold call that I think it could well have paid off for Russian Time. Credit to Cecotto though, he drove a good race and made no errors. He also had a very good start which put him in the mix when the guys who started on options, like myself, began to pit.
The Sunday races are different, there are no pitstops and no strategy calls - it is just 45 minutes of pure racing. Starting from seventh I had great fun picking off the cars ahead to get up to second and was fighting with Nasr for the win for pretty much the whole race. It was a really enjoyable race and even though I couldn't quite take the win in the end, I was very satisfied with the job we'd done over the course of the weekend. Nasr finally took his first win in GP2 with a good drive, which meant I left Barcelona top of the championship with both Carlin drivers on my tail.
After four podiums from four races this season couldn't have started much better for us. We have been fighting for the win in every single race this year and confidence is high. Next up is Monaco next weekend though and as we saw last year, that is a place where anything can happen. The hard work needs to continue!
Follow Jolyon on Twitter: @JolyonPalmer