Renault test driver Romain Grosjean’s transition to Formula One is looking increasingly assured as he dominates the GP2 season – in a way that’s curiously reminiscent of Jenson Button’s trip to the senior series title.
The Frenchman, who drives for Barwa Addax, had a storming weekend in Monaco, stamping his authority on qualifying and then the feature race.
But his chances of a lock-out were ruined after he clipped the back wheel of Andreas Zuber and was launched into the air pending a sickening crash on the harbour front.
However, such are the safety standards of modern racing cars that he walked away unhurt. And he had the added satisfaction of a 13-point lead at the top of the driver standings and an enhanced reputation as this year’s GP2 driver to watch.
Here’s how the weekend unfolded:
Qualifying: Fast, faster, fastest
Grosjean kicked off the weekend with a dominant display in qualifying, breaking the previous track record for the series to claim pole position for the feature race ahead of teammate Vitaly Petrov and ART’s Nico HÃ¼lkenberg.
The Frenchman set an early fastest lap, improved it again on the ten minute mark then with two minutes remaining set a best time of 1:19.498.
DAMS’ Pastor Maldonado and FMI’s Andreas Zuber were scrapping for the top spot early in the session until Grosjean stormed in with an untouchable lead. Super Nova’s Luca Filippi was the first to challenge it, then Zuber, then Maldonado’s team-mate JÃ©rÃ´me d’Ambrosio until, with a few minutes remaining, the floodgates opened. But to no effect after Grosjean found extra speed.
Behind the top three were Zuber, Racing Engineering’s Lucas di Grassi, Ocean Racing’s Alvaro Parente, d’Ambrosio and Filippi, but while the battle for second was fierce there was no doubt that Grosjean had claimed his second pole position of the season.
Feature race: Grosjean does a Button
Grosjean continued his domination of the weekend in the feature race, leading nearly every lap to hand his team another one-two result ahead of Petrov and di Grassi, earning a point for the fastest lap and extending his championship lead in the process.
The Frenchman led a train of cars around the famously tight track and pit strategy meant Filippi became the man to beat, leapfrogging up to effective sixth while di Grassi put himself in line for a potential podium.
However the Italian got stuck behind Davide Rigon and, when finally released, he pushed too hard to catch Zuber, clipping the kerb at the final corner and finishing his race. Also accident-prone were Parente, Super Nova’s Javier Villa and Arden’s Edoardo Mortara who tripped over each other at the hairpin.
Grosjean crossed the finish line 6.6 seconds ahead of Petrov, while di Grassi held off HÃ¼lkenberg for the final podium position. Zuber finished a strong race in fifth position ahead of d’Ambrosio and Ocean’s Karun Chandhok, while Villa claimed eighth.
Following the race, Roldan Rodriguez, Lucas di Grassi, Dani Clos, Nico Hulkenberg, Edoardo Mortara, Luca Filippi, Javier Villa and Kamui Kobayashi were all judged to have cut the apex of turn one.
As a result, a 25-second penalty was added to each drivers’ time. As a consequence Andreas Zuber was promoted to a podium finish in third. and Pastor Maldonado started the sprint race from pole position. See the full revised results here >>
Sprint: Grosjean blots his copybook with heavy crash
Romain Grosjean was unable to carry his winning form over into the sprint race – partly a combination of the reversed grid and lack of overtaking chances, but mostly thanks to a spectacular accident that saw the race red-flagged.
Maldonado was leading when the crash came, thus taking the top step on the podium ahead of d’Ambrosio and HÃ¼lkenberg. Despite starting from pole he had been beaten to Ste Devote by front row starter Chandhok while d’Ambrosio and HÃ¼lkenberg started their own race-long battle for supremacy.
Ocean Racing were looking to claim their first ever win with Chandhok easily in control of the race until the end of lap 20 when the Indian slowed across the line with a suspected broken drive shaft, handing the lead to Maldonado and prompting a safety car to back up the pack behind him.
Five laps later Zuber was under pressure from Grosjean, who caught the Austrian’s rear wheel and was sent barrelling into the barriers at Tabac, prompting another track visit for the safety car. With just two laps remaining and plenty of debris to clear, the race was red-flagged soon after.
Maldonado picked up the win ahead of d’Ambrosio and HÃ¼lkenberg, with di Grassi, Zuber and Petrov behind them. Grosjean’s team-mate also picked up a point for fastest lap and the Frenchman was soon pronounced unhurt.
Championship standings (points scorers only)
- Romain Grosjean, Barwa Addax: 31 points
- Vitaly Petrov, Barwa Addax: 18 points
- JÃ©rÃ´me d’Ambrosio, DAMS: 18 points
- Pastor Maldonado, DAMS: 12 points
- Edoardo Mortara, Arden: 10 points
- Nicolas HÃ¼lkenberg, ART: 8 points
- Andreas Zuber, FMS: 8 points
- Lucas Di Grassi, Racing Engineering: 8 points
- Giedo van der Garde, iSport: 5 points
- Luca Filippi, Super Nova: 5 points
- Kamui Kobayashi, DAMS: 3 points
- Karun Chandhok, Ocean: 2 points