Feature Race (May 27th)
An assured drive from Davide Valsecchi secured the newly-formed AirAsia squad their first ever GP2 victory in only their third event.
Valsecchi’s drive to the flag depended on a steady head, although he was helped off the line when poleman Sam Bird stalled. From there, the AirAsia man held back, preferring instead to preserve his tyres, while Racing Engineering’s Álvero Parente snapped at his heels for much of the duration.
Solid stops from both crews ensured they maintained the gap at the front, with Valsecchi claiming victory by 1.4 seconds.
Neither Luca Filippi nor Romain Grosjean could have had more different races if they had tried. Starting well down the field (Filippi, 11th; Grosjean, 26th), the pair had little to lose on an alternate strategy, choosing to run long rather than imitate others.
A quick pace – even on ageing tyres – gave the pair track position, with Filippi assuming the final podium spot, two seconds ahead of the 4th place Grosjean – a startling effort by both.
Stefano Coletti enjoyed a less fruitful afternoon at his home race. The Monegasque pilot had hoped for a podium; however he was the first to be caught out by the Filippi / Grosjean long game, emerging behind the pair as they fed back on track.
In the final laps, Coletti fell away, as did his Pirelli’s, and into the clutches of Josef Kral; however the Czech racer could do nothing to take 5th from the Monaco native.
Kral enjoyed something of an eventful race. The Arden racer dropped to 6th early on, following pressure from Jules Bianchi and Giedo van der Garde; however he would gain those spots back on lap ten when Bianchi ploughed into the rear of Van der Garde at the Nouvelle chicane. Kral would lose more time behind the long-running Kevin Ceccon later in the race, potentially costing Kral a top-five finish.
It was a mixed day for Carlin, whose Feature Race charge was led by Max Chilton. The Briton brought his Renault-powered machine home 8th, just behind teammate Oliver Turvey.
Unfortunately for Turvey, he failed to adhere a penalty for a jump start, earning a 30-second penalty from the race stewards post-race. It would promote Chilton to 7th, with Charles Pic taking 8th in his Barwa Addax entry.
There was no doubt iSport bore the brunt of a poor day. Following Bird’s start-line stall, the Englishman used strategy to reach 11th; however it would all come to naught when the polesitter hit teammate Ericsson at La Rascasse on lap 32.
Ericsson would return the favour a lap later by shoving Bird into the barriers at Mirabeau, only for both iSport machines to suffer suspension / wing failures exiting the tunnel.
With debris strewn across the circuit, a brief safety car was called, closing the field for the final laps.
The barriers also caught out Julian Leal, Rodolfo Gonzalez and Pål Varhaug ensuring only fourteen runners crossed the finish line.
2011 GP2 Round of Monaco (Rd 3, Feature Race, 41 laps) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Davide Valsecchi AirAsia 1:00:23.957 2. Álvaro Parente Racing Engineering +1.471 3. Luca Filippi Super Nova +2.199 4. Romain Grosjean DAMS +4.219 5. Stefano Coletti Trident +14.023 6. Josef Kral Arden +14.467 7. Max Chilton Carlin +16.071 8. Charles Pic Barwa Addax +19.524 9. Fabio Leimer Rapax +19.934 10. Kevin Mirocha Ocean Racing Tech. +26.692 FL. Davide Valsecchi 1:23.011
Sprint Race (May 28th)
Frenchman Charles Pic celebrated a lights-to-flag Sprint Race victory on the streets of Monte Carlo, earning the Barwa Addax driver his second success of the season.
A serene drive from Pic made sure Josef Kral and Romain Grosjean were mere blips in his mirrors for the most part and although Pic never ran away with the race, his stout driving style ensured he faced no rearward problems.
The Barwa Addax man did have to contend with two safety car periods in the early stages – first when Kevin Mirocha’s Ocean Racing Technology car ground to a halt on the start / finish straight on lap four.
Once green again, it would be half-a-lap before the safety car made another appearance, when on the ninth lap Marcus Ericsson bounced over the kerbs into the Swimming Pool section, ploughing hard into the barrier as a result and putting a full-stop on iSport’s horror weekend.
Pic survived both restarts, although Kral could be forgiven for paying too much attention to his mirrors as he dared to hold Grosjean at bay.
Grosjean wasn’t the only one driver pushing. The DAMS man had Carlin’s Max Chilton on his tail for much of the race, as he attempted to make up for a poor start.
It would fall apart for the young Briton in the final tours. After laps of destroying his Pirelli’s, Chilton fell back toward Luca Filippi (Super Nova) and Davide Valsecchi (AirAsia), both of who would pass on laps 24 and 29 respectively.
Once by Chilton for 4th, Filippi pulled thirteen seconds on the Carlin racer, with the now 5th place Valsecchi creating a three-second gap on the final lap alone.
Indeed, such was Chilton’s lack of pace, he garnered a trail of traffic come the flag with Fabio Leimer, Oliver Turvey, Giedo van der Garde, Fairuz Fauzy, Jolyon Palmer, Kevin Ceccon and Sam Bird all with 3.5 seconds of the points at the flag.
It was a poor day for Monegasque racer Stefano Coletti, who stalled his Trident machine from 4th on the grid.
Pål Varhaug got going one lap late when his DAMS machine stopped on the parade lap, when Esteban Gutierrez never even made it to the grid, due to a mechanical issue.
Penalties were also rife with both Dani Clos, Álvaro Parente, Michael Herck, Johnny Cecotto Jr., and Luiz Razia all receiving drive-through’s for jump starts. Meanwhile, Jules Bianchi capped off his horror Monaco experience with a drive-through for overtaking under the safety car.
2011 GP2 Round of Monaco (Rd 3, Sprint Race, 30 laps) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Charles Pic Barwa Addax 45:50.498 2. Josef Kral Arden +3.332 3. Romain Grosjean DAMS +3.885 4. Luca Filippi Super Nova +14.587 5. Davide Valsecchi AirAsia +27.072 6. Max Chilton Carlin +29.626 7. Fabio Leimer Rapax +29.846 8. Oliver Turvey Carlin +30.372 9. Giedo van der Garde Barwa Addax +30.859 10. Fairuz Fauzy Super Nova +31.585 FL. Sam Bird iSport 1:22.713 2011 GP2 Series (Rd 3) Drivers' Championship Pos Driver Points 1. Romain Grosjean 23 2. Sam Bird 23 3. Charles Pic 22 4. Davide Valsecchi 21 5. Giedo van der Garde 21 Teams' Championship Pos Team Points 1. Barwa Addax 43 2. iSport 31 3. AirAsia 24 4. DAMS 23 5. Racing Engineering 17