A fourth place and a fifth in Monaco It wasn’t the kind of thing dreams are made of, but look it’s 19 points on a track like Monte Carlo, which is always a bit of a lottery. A lot of my main rivals faltered and we picked up good points, so I’m happy.
Right from the start in free practice my DAMS car felt very, very good. The car was very strong, just like last year, and straight away my driving was much better.
Last season was my first time in Monaco, and on my second lap of free practice on Thursday I went quicker than any lap I did there last year! I was feeling really confident.
As I said in my preview blog, I was in the tougher qualifying group. Not only that, but we ran first, and with the GP2 rubber down from our group it was always going to benefit those who ran later, so pole position wasn’t really in our grasp. The car felt fantastic, and I ended up third behind Norman Nato and Mitch Evans just the wrong side of a tenth of a second. With the groups alternating in the grid, that meant I started sixth, which was not what we deserved bearing in mind how much pace we had. When you’re talking about such small amounts of time, it’s frustrating.
I lost a place at the start to Antonio Giovinazzi, who got up the inside at the first corner. I saw him there but I knew he wasn’t really in our race because he was going to pit very soon. When he did, that put me back up to sixth and I very quickly caught up Evans and Oliver Rowland. I set what was comfortably the fastest lap at that point I wanted to bridge the gap quickly and get a feel for the car.
Ollie was stuck behind Mitch and I was stuck behind Ollie, so it was a case of cruising around, waiting for the pit stops, but then all hell broke loose. Sergey Sirotkin put it in the wall, Jordan King hit the barriers, and at one point I had a puncture from debris. That could have just been a loss of performance from the virtual safety cars though VSCs aren’t good for tyres or brakes; they hate it! My car was pulling a bit on the straight. It was all getting a bit mad but we were around the pit-stop time, so I just came in, not wanting to risk anything, and it was good to get through that part of the race unscathed.
Evans had been given a five-second penalty in the pits for cutting the chicane, so when I rejoined I was effectively third behind Nato and Rowland. Artem Markelov was in the lead, but he hadn’t stopped so we knew a podium was extremely likely. My engineer said, ‘P3, 11 laps to go, bring it home’, and we thought we’d just bank the podium.
But then there was another period of VSCs, and Markelov was able to get in and out of the pits and keep the lead. That seemed a bit odd it was immensely frustrating not to be on the podium and a lot of questions have been asked about that. Still, fourth from sixth on the grid was a good result, especially as a lot of my championship rivals faltered.
That put me fifth on the grid for the reversed-grid race on Saturday. I so nearly got fourth into the first corner I was up the inside of Evans, but I needed Raffaele Marciello, who was in third, to brake a couple of metres later. As it was Lello braked early and Evans hung on around the outside. That was slightly frustrating, but it is what it is.
From then on I tried to go for fastest lap, and I got it at one stage, but I think the track had changed slightly after F1 qualifying. I just didn’t have the car underneath me and we struggled with rear-tyre degradation. By the end I had Nato right behind me, but I never felt under threat. I always thought I could hold him off.
The good thing is I’ve ended the weekend just eight points off the championship lead. I know from before, when I’ve won championships in other series, that these weekends are extremely important. A fourth and a fifth might sound boring, but it’s vital to pick up those points. You win when you can, and when you can’t you pick up the maximum possible. We dodged a lot of curveballs, didn’t make mistakes which a lot of our rivals did, and banked 19 points.
Qualifying: 6th (third in group)
Race 1: 4th (started on soft tyres, finished on supersoft)
Race 2: 5th