Monaco 2011

Racing at Monaco is something that not many people get the chance to do, so going to the circuit in a World Series car for the first time can only make you feel a bit tense! I dreamt of driving this circuit for many years and finally I got the opportunity to race there.

The circuit in general is a pretty slow-speed track due to the number of corners and small straights. At the beginning of every race meeting Monaco is always very dusty and dirty due to a year’s worth of casual everyday driving. Going into the practice session I was briefed on keeping the car out of the barriers and making sure I had maximum track time. I had to take a pretty strict mindset into practice so I made use of every minute at my disposal rather than pushing too early and having a shunt.

The format of the weekend is a bit unusual as we have one 45-minute practice followed by a 25-minute qualifying session then a 45-minute race, all of which is open downforce. The practice session for me went fairly steady and I was enjoying familiarising myself with the circuit. I didn’t use any new tyres as I didn’t think I would get the best out of them learning a new track in a limited amount of time. I kept out of the barriers (unlike a few) and ended up around 23rd. I am never worried about practice times as they don’t correlate to qualifying pace, also not running new tyres has meant that I can carry that set over to the next race meeting at Nurburgring.

The qualifying is set in a different format at Monaco as having 26 cars going for a qualifying time would be mayhem. So the groups were split in two, with the quickest time out of both sessions starting on pole followed by the other group’s quickest driver, and so on down the grid as the sessions were merged together. Qualifying went OK with steady improvements over the session but I did find it hard to get in a rhythm in the shorter amount of time. I ended up 13th in my group with a few tenths putting me a few places higher which was a good improvement over practice but not good enough in general. I needed a few more laps to find my groove but this was not going to be the case. I was quicker than a few in the other group which could have put me around the 10th spot which would have been around 20th on the grid if I was in group A but with group B being quicker this put me to the back of the grid.

So, after a disappointing qualifying, I was hopeful of making up some places up in the race. I knew that with 45 minutes of racing on one set of tyres (as there were no mandatory pitstops) mistakes would be made throughout the race. The start of the race went very well and I made about 3-4 places by the first corner but with various people cutting the corner I lost out on the hard work that was the start. For the most of the first lap I was side-by-side with my teammate fighting for position and was unlucky with another car going slightly wide and stopping me from accelerating out of the corner.

In the first part of the race I found myself getting up to speed and making good progress, improving on my lap time in qualifying, which was good on older tyres. The problem came when there was a hefty crash which brought out a safety car. I managed to get stuck behind it as it came out of the pits and I was not released until three-quarters of the way round the circuit. This lost me valuable time to the pack that I had to make up in a full-course yellow flag situation. I continued to follow my team-mate as we restarted and, after finding more pace throughout the race, I was hoping to push another place higher. I managed to get very near to my teammate which put him under pressure, forcing him into a mistake, and putting me a place up. The last part of the race brought out another safety car which gave me time to catch up to the group ahead. I managed on the restart to find some more pace which put me up a few more places due to the forced errors of drivers in front and while dodging various other incidents the chequered flag came out.

Overall, the entire race went well with few errors from me and chances to collect places from various other incidents and moves made by myself. I ended up 15th overall with a lot of people in front getting time penalties for cutting chicanes. I narrowly missed making up 3-4 places which could have put me very close to the 10th spot. I was also the 4th rookie in that race which is a decent effort – but still not the rookie podium.

I have to say the whole weekend was fantastic with such a great atmosphere. The public were great and I really enjoyed being there. Being a rookie in this championship is tough but having never raced on a circuit before is even tougher. A very hard challenge but I did made good progress over the weekend. I am looking forward to the next race at Nurburgring, a circuit I know and have raced on, with one of the longest circuits in the world only a matter of metres away. I have a three-week gap now during which a lot of gym work will be enjoyed.

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