One of the major talking points following last weekend’s GP2 Series round at Monza was the on track behaviour of Trident’s Sergio Canamasas.
While mixing erratic driving and occasional bouts of pace is nothing new for the Spaniard, Canamasas’ Monza record was impossible to ignore during Sunday’s Sprint Race.
As noted in last week’s GP2 race report, the 26-year-old skipped through the Ascari chicane by himself on the opening lap after seemingly being ‘distracted’ by a battle Johnny Cecotto Jr and Felipe Nasr, before emerging on the other side of the tarmac run-off ahead of traffic, but going much slower than those behind.
It caused a frightening moment for Adrian Quaife-Hobbs who was forced into a last moment swing-and-brake manoeuvre to prevent from being vaulted over the rear of his out of place rival; however Canamasas’ actions did start a chain reaction that ultimately caused Pierre Gasly and Artem Markelov to crash – a clash that, in the eyes of this writer led to a grossly unfair penalty for Gasly.
Several laps later, Canamasas struck again when he clattered the left rear of Rene Binder on the approach of the Roggia chicane, before bashing the side of Raffaele Marciello into Lesmo just a few short seconds later. Both Binder and Marciello had to retire as a result these incidents.
These series of clashes caused quite a reaction in the GP2 paddock with rival drivers demanding he be dropped from the next round at Sochi in four weeks time.
What was most startling about this was Canamasas’ own reactions later on. When speaking with him in the GP2 paddock on Sunday afternoon, Canamasas claimed that none of the clashes were his fault and he could not understand why there were such claims against him.
Marciello was less than kind in his reaction. If nothing else, it was a grand display from a driver who seems – at times – to struggle with spatial awareness when in close quarters with other competitors, while also proclaiming incidents in which he is involved to be the fault of his rivals.
It must also be remembered that Monza’s actions were not merely spur of the moment incidents that cast a black mark on a previously scrupulous record. At Singapore in 2012, Canamasas ignored a drive-through penalty and then also a black flag for nine laps earning much criticism.
During GP2 qualifying in Bahrain last year, Canamasas deliberately used his car to force Kevin Ceccon off track as the chequered flag emerged. It was a shocking move that followed in the steps of a similar actions by Johnny Cecotto Jr in the previous round in Malaysia.
Unfortunately, series stewards proved unduly lenient following those actions.
During a brief Q&A session during the Italian Grand Prix weekend, Formula One Race Director Charlie Whiting noted that “If a driver we driving erratically, this would be brought to the attention of the stewards who would probably impose a penalty would also attract points on his licence.”
It is understood that while Canamasas did not receive any penalty points prior to Monza, he certainly had come the end of Sunday. Whiting explains further: “If he accrues twelve points he would lose his licence for a race,” while also noting, “If a driver drives too slowly he won’t qualify for the race and will hence not start the race.”
As to how much accounts from other competitors play in a driver’s disciplinary action, the former Brabham mechanic was quick to point out these would only be used if “a driver is involved in an incident with another driver.”
Let’s be clear about this. Sergio Canamasas is not a rookie. He is coming to the end of his second full season of GP2 Series competition and prior to that he enjoyed two seasons of Formula Renault 3.5. He has also raced in Formula 3 in Spain for three years – first in Spanish F3, before it was renamed to the European F3 Open (now Euroformula Open).
Whiting confirms that status of championship can also play a part in how a driver may be disciplined. “We do always have the ‘fall back’ of [a driver] bringing the Championship into disrepute but I think with the above well-established systems in place this would be likely to be completely unnecessary.”
For a category that sits immediately below Formula One, it is dreadfully unfortunate that such low standards of driving took away from what was otherwise an excellent race that showcased some fantastic racing from those at the front of the field.
The nature of GP2 (and sister series GP3) means that a ruined Saturday also tends to nullify the potential for a result on Sunday as well and in a series like GP2, where the risks are high for drivers’ futures, crash happy competitors are an unnecessary hazard.
Some drivers are slow – that is something we live with in motorsport – but when competitors are reckless, that is a whole new kettle of fish and that should be dealt with in a prompt and proper manner.