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Paddock Postcard from Monaco

25 May 2014

The Formula One fraternity loves coming to Monte Carlo - and not just to go racing. The 2014 festivities began on Tuesday evening with the traditional charity football game organised by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, now in its 21st year.

Among the F1 drivers past and present taking part were Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Jules Bianchi, Daniil Kvyat and Giancarlo Fisichella. The opposing side, who won the game 3-2, included tennis superstar Novak Djokovic and footballing legends Freddie Ljungberg and David Ginola.

Thursday evening’s highlight was the now traditional Monaco party on Force India boss Vijay Mallya’s yacht, the Indian Empress, while on Friday night the annual Amber Lounge charity fashion show saw F1 drivers turn their hand to modelling, with Toro Rosso’s Jean Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat, Marussia’s Max Chilton, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Sauber’s Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez among those taking to catwalk.

As always, the trip to Monte Carlo inspired several one-off helmet designs and one of the more unusual was that of Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson. Inspired by the one used by his compatriot and ‘Super Swede’, the late Ronnie Peterson, Ericsson even had Peterson’s actual helmet bag to carry it in. Both men were born in Orebro, Sweden and this weekend marks the 40th anniversary of Peterson’s victory in the Principality.

As ever the Monaco paddock teemed with the rich and the famous throughout the weekend, with star billing going to Canadian pop star Justin Bieber who visited Bernie Ecclestone on Saturday.

FIA President Jean Todt came to another Grand Prix, as did racers Mika Hakkinen, Keke Rosberg, Paul di Resta, Jos Verstappen, Vern Schuppan (with wife Jenny), Jan Magnussen, Jean Alesi, Andrea de Cesaris, Jean-Pierre Jarier and Rupert Keegan. Gerhard Berger was also there, nursing the right arm he recently damaged in a skiing accident. “I’ve hurt myself in some accidents along the way,” the Austrian said, “But I never felt pain like I did with this.”

Eddie Irvine paid a visit, as did Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson who said he was on his best behaviour, while renowned motor racing and aviation artist Michael Turner made his annual trip, quietly chuffed after a recent audience with Queen Elizabeth II.

On track, GP2 Series leader Jolyon Palmer took a dominant pole position for DAMS in Friday’s main race but was beaten away by Russian Time’s Mitch Evans, who opted to start on the supersoft tyres rather than the softs Palmer had chosen.

The safety car was deployed at the end of the opening lap as Facu Regalia’s Hilmer car rolled to a halt. Once that went back in, Palmer started to hound Evans until slipping back ahead on the 10th lap in a great move at Ste Devote corner. On the 12th lap however, Rene Binder tapped Arden team mate Andre Negrao into a spin at the hairpin; Binder and Trident’s Sergio Canamasas squeezed through but Negrao’s stricken car blocked the track and the race was red flagged as four other cars came to a necessary halt.

While this was happening, more cars stopped in the tunnel, among them third-placed Stephane Richelmi’s DAMS, fifth placed Stoffel Vandoorne’s ART, Alexander Rossi’s Caterham and Daniel de Jong’s MP Motorsport. All were restarted eventually.

After a huge amount of debate and a 40-minute hiatus, the grid was reformed for a start behind the safety car, with Richelmi, Vandoorne and Rossi back in their rightful positions. Binder was eventually given a 10-second stop-and-go penalty, but would later cause more mayhem when he punted Artem Markelov’s Russian Time car off in a failed passing move in the chicane, before crashing his front wingless car at Tabac.

Palmer led away easily and quickly established a big lead after setting a series of fastest laps, leaving Evans to bottle up Richelmi and Cecotto. But a second safety car almost ruined his strategy, as after a mix-up between Raffaele Marciello and Julian Leal at the chicane he found himself under increasing pressure as the time limit for the race fast approached.

Stefano Coletti was the man on the move, after a brilliant passing move on Carlin’s Felipe Nasr at Noghes and then overtaking Evans, but when the Monegasque attempted to displace third placed Simon Trummer, who had yet to stop, both ended up head-on in the tyre wall. Palmer got to breathe again and so did Evans, and that’s how they finished, with Nasr a remarkable third from 18th on the grid. Trident teamsters Johnny Cecotto and Canamasas battled each other home for fourth and fifth, with Arthur Pic sixth for Campos ahead of Caterham’s Ryo Haryanto and Richelmi, who fell to eighth but took pole for the sprint race. Palmer also set fastest lap, and increased his lead in the championship, on 101 points from Nasr’s 57.

Local boy Richelmi won Saturday afternoon’s sprint race under intense pressure from Canamasas until the final stages when he eased away, making it a double for DAMS. Haryanto finished third, ahead of Cecotto who finished with a long train of cars in his wake comprising Campos’s Arthur Pic, Evans, Palmer, Rapax’s Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, Coletti and Lazarus’s Conor Daly. Palmer now has 103 points to Nasr’s 57 and Cecotto’s 49.