- GP2 - Monaco GP - Race 1
Palmer pips Evans by 0.4s in thrilling feature race
Jolyon Palmer overcame a red flag and a safety car period to win a dramatic GP2 feature race in Monaco and stretch his championship lead, with the top three crossing the line separated by just six tenths of a second.
Palmer twice saw his lead cut due to accidents elsewhere on track, and was perhaps fortunate that the charging Stefano Coletti blew his chances of victory late on following a collision with Simon Trummer. But Palmer executed a perfect race throughout, holding off a charging Evans as the race clock expired to win by 0.4s with Felipe Nasr a further two tenths down.
An early clash between Rene Binder and Andre Negrao saw the race red flagged, and a 30-minute delay followed which brought the likes of Nasr, who had pitted, into contention. Palmer then built up a huge lead in the resulting stint before Julian Leal triggered a safety car period, but a quick pit stop ensured the championship leader got out ahead of Nasr and Evans.
Palmer had a poor getaway off the line from pole and was beaten into Ste Devote by Evans. The first lap was remarkably clean for all 26 drivers, with Nasr making up five places - which would turn out to be crucial in the latter stages of the race.
On the second lap Facu Regailia lost drive coming out of Nouvelle chicane and parked his car on the inside of the entry to Tabac, bringing out the Safety Car. The action resumed on lap 4 but the pecking order remained the same, with Stephane Richelmi fending off a charging Johnny Cecotto.
At first Evans looked fastest out in front but his super soft tyre soon went off, dropping him back into the clutches of Palmer, who was on the medium tyre. Evans opted to stay out on Lap 9 and it appeared to be the wrong decision, as Palmer dived down the inside of the Australian into Ste Devote.
Daniel Abt then spun out at the hairpin on Lap 10 after an incident with Alexander Rossi, which later earnt the Caterham driver a drive-through penalty. Out in front Evans then had to fend off Richelmi but he resisted the urge to pit, allowing a train of cars to form up behind him and giving Palmer the chance to stretch his lead in front.
Staying on track turned out to be a master-stroke from Evans as the red flags came out on Lap 12, as Binder spun team-mate Negrao at the Hairpin, turning him the wrong way and blocking the route through. After being stationary for a while a slightly farcical situation followed where several cars, including Richelmi, had to be bump-started in the tunnel after entering 'safety mode' in the tunnel.
The teams were able to change tyres as they waited on the grid, a huge let off for Evans who had been a sitting duck on the super softs. With the race clock set to 40 minutes and 22 seconds it effectively became a sprint race, albeit with the top 14 drivers all still needing to complete a pit stop.
From the restart Palmer started stretching out his lead and the focus immediately turned to the gap over Nasr, who was down in 13th but the highest of all the cars to pit before the red flag. But once again Palmer's work was in vain as Leal, pushing to gain a position for reverse-grid pole, failed to take the corner at Nouvelle and went into the wall. Palmer dived into the pits and managed to get out in front of Nasr, clipping an old tyre which bounced into the pit lane on his exit - though it did not result in a penalty.
The race restarted with Stoffel Vandoorne, who for some reason had not been brought into the pits during the safety car period, leading, but he soon fell down the order when he made his stop. Coletti was absolutely flying at the restart and made two passes in one lap to move himself into fifth, which was effectively third, before dispatching Evans and setting his sights on Trummer, who was yet to pit, with Palmer just up the road.
Izawa then stopped after contact with the barrier before Coletti made a late lunge down the inside of Trummer, who was yet to pit, through Rascasse, leaving them both in the barriers at the final corner and ending what looked like a big chance of victory.
But Coletti's retirement did not guarantee the win for Palmer as Evans started to reel him in at a rapid rate. Nasr was also flying in third but was unable to get close enough to make a move on Evans, who in turn was unable to take Palmer through Rascasse as the Brit claimed a memorable win.
The victory moves Palmer to 101 points in the championship standings, an impressive 41 clear of Nasr.