Stephane Richelmi finally took his breakthrough win in the GP2 Series last time out, and for the Monegasque driver it was all the sweeter for happening on his home track in Monaco.
The twenty-four year old DAMS driver admits winning his first race at the 54th time of asking is a big relief for him, and he was delighted to do it in front of people he knows having grown up in the principality.
“It liberates me more then anything else,” said Richelmi to The Checkered Flag. “Of course I’m really happy with it and even more because it happened in the place I was born. But the main feeling about this is that it’s done. I have won one race; no one can cancel this!
“Right after the race, I couldn’t realise all this, it was just too big. It’s the place I have always been, I know the streets of the track by heart since I’m a little kid. Also, I’m surrounded by all the people I know or I’ve meet during my every day life. To mix home and passion is always awesome and to add a victory on it… Was just a dream moment!
“It’s all about being home, with the people I know being under the podium, in the grandstand, on the balconies… To know having my family and friends really close or somewhere watching… When I had the trophy in my hand, I just thought of all these persons, also the one who have helped me since my beginning.”
When the Feature race in Monaco was red flagged due to the incident involving the two Arden International cars that blocked the track, Richelmi’s race almost came to an early end when his DAMS car’s engine overheated resulting in it stalling in the tunnel. He was lucky to get going again after a push start from the marshals. Had he retired, he would not have been in position to start the Sprint race from pole position where he would go on to win.
Although he was happy his race wasn’t over, he was disappointed that he had not passed the Russian Time machine of Mitch Evans before the race was stopped as the New Zealander struggled with his tyres. He was also disappointed that a delay in his pit stop cost him a podium in the Feature race.
“Actually I was quite relax and confident that the car will start again,” said the Monegasque driver. “I was just a bit angry to myself that I didn’t manage to pass Evans the previous lap. I was hoping it started again and afterwards I was really relieved, understanding I was close to stopping the race there!
“[The Feature race] was a normal Monaco GP2 race! With [Evans’] strategy, he was lucky to get the red flag in order to change his tires. I had the pace to be 2nd behind Palmer, but anyway being already on the podium in the feature race was a good thing for me, above my expectations. So when Palmer hit my front right tyre, I was really disappointed missing the podium.”
Heading into this weekends Austrian round, Richelmi admits his expectations have not changed despite his first win, although a Feature race win is definitely on his ‘to-do’ list. In the four week break between Monaco and Austria, he took some time away to relax before getting back into training.
“My expectations are the same, which is to provide my best in each circumstances even if now I want to win a feature race,” said Richelmi! “I need big points now.
“I took some days off from Monaco as we have a lot of [down] time. Then I got back to physical training and preparation for Austria, doing some simulator [work]. With the summer coming, I started to enjoy spending some time outside.”