The Bridgestone e-reporter GP2 diary - Monaco 23 May 2009
Since its inception in 2005, the GP2 Series has established itself as a serious breeding ground for Formula One talent - with the likes of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton as evidence. And official tyre suppliers to the series, Bridgestone, are helping to do the same for motorsport journalism, with their e-reporter competition.
Eight of the 2009 finalists will each get to report from one round of the series, and will be supplying Formula1.com with details of the GP2 action, plus a diary reflecting their experience as a first-time paddock correspondent. For Monaco, its 21-year-old Belgian writer, Filip Cleeren...
Saturday race report - Maldonado picks up sprint win
Pastor Maldonado won the GP2 sprint race in Monaco after Karun Chandhok dramatically retired from the lead with ten laps to go. After a double safety car intervention, ART driver Maldonado held off Jerome DAmbrosios DAMS while team mate Nico Hulkenberg finished third. The race was red-flagged with two laps to go after Fridays winner Romain Grosjean had a huge crash at Tabac.
As always at the tight Monaco track, the start proved key as Chandhok jumped pole man Maldonado, who made a poor getaway. From then on the Indian didnt have too much trouble staying ahead until he suddenly lost all drive on the main straight and had to park the car at Ste Devote. Im so disappointed, said Chandhok. Before the driveshaft problem I had the pace on Pastor. You dont get many chances to win at Monaco.
Maldonado was happy to take over the lead and keep it until the flag. Belgian DAmbrosio was unable to follow the leaders as he held up the rest of the top eight en route to second place. Hulkenberg, Lucas Di Grassi (Racing Engineering), Andreas Zuber (FMSI) and Vitaly Petrov (Barwa) took the other points as they completed the top six.
The sprint race was shaping up to be a rather uneventful affair. Most drivers had no choice but to wait for the man in front to make a mistake to have a chance at overtaking. Grosjean especially went through a frustrating afternoon, stuck in sixth. Desperate to get by, he made an aggressive move on Andreas Zuber, which led to the Frenchman mounting Zubers rear wheel and being catapulted into the fences. Grosjean climbed out unhurt but the damage was so severe that race had to be stopped.
After an eventful weekend, Grosjean reaffirms his lead in the championship with 31 points, ahead of Petrov and DAmbrosio, who share second with 18 points.
Despite all of Thursdays adventures, my weekend was only getting better. Friday was race day in the GP2 Series with the 45-lap feature race. Again I made my way to the hospitality area to follow the action with the rest of the crew.
The race itself was a relatively dull affair as Grosjean and his Barwa team dominated, yet post-race certainly made up for it. Despite not having a GP2 press conference I managed to get a good quote from all three podium finishers, after which I quickly tried to rush out my race report. I then had a good chat with Jerome DAmbrosio in the DAMS motorhome and caught Grosjean again for a Bridgestone Turkey preview.
I finished off the days reports before the deadline and drove back to the hotel with my guide Peter. We found a seafood restaurant near the Villefranche shoreline before taking time to appreciate the picturesque harbourside view.
Friday race postscript - stewards apply GP2 penalties
Following Fridays GP2 feature race in Monaco, race stewards have announced several penalties to handed out to drivers who cut the Ste Devote corner on the first lap.
After a hectic start at the tight Monaco track, Roldan Rodriguez, Lucas di Grassi, Dani Clos, Nico Hulkenberg, Edoardo Mortara, Luca Filippi, Javier Villa and Kamui Kobayashi all cut the first turn apex in order to avoid a collision. As a result, all of them were put under investigation by the stewards. As no definitive decision was made during the race, the stewards chose to apply a 25-second penalty instead of the usual drive-through penalty.
Because of the stewards decision, Di Grassi and Hulkenberg were demoted a place in favour of Andreas Zuber, who takes third. Meanwhile Villa loses his eighth place and thus hands pole for Saturdays sprint race to Pastor Maldonado.
Friday race report - Grosjean heads Barwa one-two
Romain Grosjean won Fridays GP2 feature race in Monaco after a race in which he led from pole to flag. Barwa Addax team mate Vitaly Petrov finished second, with Lucas Di Grassi (Racing Engineering) third.
Grosjean said: It was a perfect race for me. The strategy was very good. I tried to pull out a gap just before my pitstop to stay ahead of Vitaly. I also tried to save the tyres because it was a long race but that wasnt a problem. Now I hope we can score points again in tomorrows sprint race.
Petrov was happy to take second but he couldnt hide slight disappointment at being edged out by his team mate again. It was quite a good race but unfortunately I lost some time on the pitstop and I couldnt challenge Romain, he said. Id rather have won but the season is still very long.
Di Grassi finished third after starting fifth and jumping ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Andreas Zuber at his pitstop. Our race was very good and the strategy worked but Im still disappointed with qualifying yesterday, he said. I lost too much time in traffic and I should have been right up there.
DAMS Jerome DAmbrosio gained a spot to finish sixth, while Karun Chandhok and Javier Villa rounded out the top eight.
Alvaro Parente and Luca Filippi were left with the most to rue after todays 45-lap race. Both qualified in the top eight yesterday but they couldnt hold on for a points finish. Parente had to make an extra pitstop six laps from the end, while Luca Filippi crashed out three laps earlier coming onto the start-finish straight.
The reverse grid rule means Javier Villa will start tomorrows sprint race from pole with Karun Chandhok joining him on the front row.
Qualifying report - Grosjean grabs dominant pole
Romain Grosjean will start on pole for Fridays Monaco GP2 feature race after the championship leader comfortably beat the field in Thursdays 30-minute qualifying session. The Frenchman set the early pace and remained on top throughout the session, improving his final time to 1m 19.498s. Only his Barwa Addax team mate Vitaly Petrov joined him under the 1m 20s mark, but more than half a second adrift, as drivers lamented heavy traffic during qualifying.
Nico Hulkenberg (ART) climbed to third during the final moments, beating Andreas Zuber. Lucas Di Grassi and Alvaro Parente will share row three while Jerome DAmbrosio and Luca Filippi rounded out the top eight.
Grosjean said: Im very happy to be on pole, especially here at Monaco where it is so important. The team worked very well and we found a lot of speed. I hope we can continue that tomorrow and that Ill make a good start. Its a good thing that my team-mate Petrov is starting next to me.
More than at any other race track, qualifying proved to be very tricky as many drivers were held up in traffic on their flying laps. A frustrated DAmbrosio added: Its always very difficult to get a clean lap here and I was hindered on my final flying lap. On normal tracks its alright but here in Monaco its very tight and everyones slowing down in the final sector. But thats not an excuse, its the same for everybody. Were not in a bad position for tomorrow but I thought I could have been in the top three.
Meanwhile, rookie Ricardo Teixeira paid a high price for the steep learning curve at Monaco. He finished outside the 107-percent margin and did not qualify for Fridays 45-lap feature race.
Thursday diary - fitting in on the French Riviera
After a delayed flight and a beautiful, relaxed evening near the French Riviera, the pressure is on as I finally dive into the Monaco Grand Prix weekend. With the first practice sessions behind us, Im quickly trying to grasp the ins and outs of Monacos unique GP2 paddock - in a multi-storey car park by the sea.
This morning I was introduced to the Bridgestone team and informed about my tasks for the weekend. Straight after breakfast, I had my first interview with GP2s director of operations, Marco Codello. I then had to plunge into the deep end without any preparation or lifejacket, but I got on just fine and had an interesting chat about the organisation that goes into GP2.
Together with my guide Peter, I then went down to the track as the first Formula One practice session was about to start. Thats where it really shows: this is not just a race. Nowhere in the world do the vibrant atmosphere, the beautiful setting and the racing blend so perfectly as here in Monaco. This is what Formula One racing is all about.
In contrast to the grey, desolate car park paddock, the harbour is where every piece of the puzzle comes together, creating a unique environment that you will never experience anywhere else. You can feel the history, the tradition and the glamour as you walk down the harbour for a stroll past the many luxury yachts and Formula One motorhomes.
The buzz and excitement are tangible as you head up to the infamous Rascasse corner and get assaulted by the noise of the thunderous V8 engines. I have only just arrived and I have made my mind up already. This is where I want to be, this is what I want to do. Bring it on!
After F1 practice, it was time to work on my reports before joining the rest of the crew to watch GP2 qualifying. After witnessing how Grosjean climbed to the top of the timesheets I had one of the most exciting moments of the weekend. I rushed around to get some quick reactions of the drivers as they climbed out of their cars, full of adrenaline - not unlike myself - after a hectic 30-minute session. Even though many were frustrated with the heavy traffic on track, they were happy to talk and delivered me some savvy quotes to use in my report which I then rushed out right before the deadline.
After dinner, we headed down to the harbour for another taste of the Monaco Grand Prix lifestyle. Its taste was suspiciously similar to a Red Bull Mojito, since my guide Peter got us on board Red Bulls Energy Station. We had a chat with some of his former colleagues and other European journalists at what is supposed to be a typical Monaco party on one of the biggest floating structures in town. Theres no better way to get the full Monaco experience!
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