The DAMS team left the Hungaroring having consolidated their GP2 Series Teams’ championship lead after another impressive display of driving from Briton Jolyon Palmer, who took a fourth place in the Saturday Feature race and a well-earned runners-up spot in the Sunday Sprint race. Team-mate Stephane Richelmi was lest fortunate, after being eliminated in the Feature in a crash, before climbing from twenty-fifth to twelfth in the Sprint.
Palmer was happy with his weekend’s work, despite failing to qualify on the front row of the grid for the first time in 2014. He made some good overtaking manoeuvres, including on his main championship rival Felipe Nasr. He was strong in both races but could not get onto the top step of the podium. He was unlucky on Saturday due to the timing of the safety car, while on Sunday, he was just not able to get close enough to eventual race winner Stoffel Vandoorne to attempt a pass.
“Overall, I’m very happy with the way the weekend worked out,” admitted Palmer. “A big thanks to the guys in the garage. My car was fantastic and I had great fun. I also enjoyed the battle with my main rival, all the more so as I emerged victorious each time!
“The start [of race two] wasn’t great but the tyres came in really quickly and I managed to pick my way through into second. I passed a few people very fairly but unfortunately Nasr was the most aggressive of them all. I went up the inside and he squeezed me in the braking zone all the way to the inside and it was really tight.
“After that it was a good race, although Stoffel unfortunately was too quick in the end as I was struggling a little with the left front [tyre] because we’d had to use it in free practice after I was run into. That meant I couldn’t fight for the win, but I’m happy with second.”
“I’m going to have some rest, but I’ll be back at Spa more determined than ever.”
Talking to Autosport about his duel with Nasr, he felt the Brazilian’s driver was bordering on ‘dangerous’.
“It does not surprise me at all that it’s been cleared by the stewards because it’s completely normal racing,” said Palmer. “I went on the inside and in the braking zone he moved across a lot. I’ve not touched anyone in racing all year.
“No one moves in the braking zone because it’s pretty well known it’s dangerous to do that. He did. We didn’t touch. It meant I was a bit wide and there was no room for him. I’m on the inside. I stuck to my line. It’s a normal racing move.”
Team-mate Richelmi’s weekend was far less successful. The Monegasque driver was on course for a good qualifying session before his engine failed, leaving him down in tenth, and then he was eliminated early in the Feature race after a clash with the Campos Racing machine of Kimiya Sato on lap six that saw the DAMS driver crash heavily into the barriers. His fight back in the Sprint race was good, but ultimately starting twenty-fifth, he was never in with a true opportunity to score points.
“My run of bad luck continues: a new engine that failed in qualifying, the collision on Saturday,” reflected Richelmi. “It’s a pity because on my only qualifying lap I proved that I could aim for a place on the front row.
“I’d like to say a big thanks to the mechanics who worked all night to rebuild my car. I was thinking of them as I fought my way back on Sunday to try and score the best result possible. I’m counting on offering them some podium finishes before the end of the season as a reward.”
Managing Director Francois Sicard feels the team can relax during the summer break after a positive first half of the season, and after another strong race for championship leader Palmer. He also praised the efforts of Richelmi despite his difficult weekend.
“We can have a few days’ holidays in a relaxed frame of mind,” said Sicard. “This weekend we consolidated our position as leaders and I’d like to thank the whole team for doing a great job. Jolyon didn’t win any races but he’s gained a psychological advantage over his rival thanks to his two fantastic performances in which he showed his combativeness and his dash.
“I’m really sorry for Stéphane. We still haven’t managed to get the monkey off his back. His drive on Sunday will do him a world of good. Rendezvous at the end of August for what’s looks like a hectic restart!”