Round 5 of the 2012 GP2 Series sees the teams and drivers assemble at that most glamorous of racing circuits, Monaco. Following on from the last round of the Series at Barcelona where Fabio Leimer was on course for a podium finish in the Feature Race until penalised with a drive-through penalty and Nathanaël Berthon took an excellent second place in the Sprint Race, Spain’s Racing Engineering team are looking for more podium finishes this weekend.
Racing Engineering has a good record at the Monte Carlo circuit, in last year’s Feature Race Alvaro Parente finished second.
The tight and twisty Monaco circuit is a special challenge for the teams, as they must optimise the set-up of their cars, and for the drivers to race aggressively but without risking contact with the unforgiving Monaco barriers.
For this weekend there has been a change in the regulations regarding the use of the Pirelli tyres. The rules have been opened up so that the GP2 drivers have two sets each of the harder and the softer tyres – which for Monaco will be soft and super-soft. This regulation applies for the Monaco weekend only. The teams also have complete freedom as to when they can use these tyres, which will encourage more race strategies – and this rule will apply for the rest of the year.
One other change for Monaco will be to the timetable, practice and qualifying will take place on Thursday with the Feature Race on Friday and the Sprint Race on Saturday. To help with the potential traffic problems’ qualifying has been split into two 14 minute sessions, Nathanaël Berthon will take part in the first session, Fabio Leimer in the second.
Below Nathanaël Berthon looks forward to the weekend ahead.
Nat, you had a fantastic weekend in Barcelona, where you not only scored many points, but also finished the Sprint Race on the podium. What have you done since then? How did you prepare for Monaco?
First of all I did a good debrief with my engineers to understand why we performed so well in Barcelona. Then I have been to the workshop in Sanlúcar, where we prepared the strategies for the Monaco event. We also analysed some data and worked with the simulator. I already arrived in Monaco on Saturday. I visited some of my family living here and I walked the track to look at the different changes to the track compared to last year. I love Monaco, even though the weather was pretty bad, I have to admit.
What can you tell us about the race track in Monaco? What is it that makes it so special?
Well, this is a good question. Monaco is a very special track, it’s unique. You have to be very careful, more than all the other tracks, because at the first mistake you are in the wall. I think this is one of the first limitations, to be afraid to have a crash and not finish the race. Then, it’s has a very different grip compared to other race tracks because we race on normal roads, you need to be aware of this. And one of the most important points for me, is to have a good rhythm from the first time you are on track, and to take the best references.
It's the first time GP2 will split the field in two groups for qualifying in Monaco. This means you will only have 14 minutes of time available to set your fastest lap time. What does this mean for you as a driver?
I already know this kind of qualifying mode from last year, so it’s nothing new for me. In my opinion, it is better for Monaco as the traffic management is so important when it comes to setting a good lap time. Apart from that, for me as a driver, it doesn’t change anything. The aim is to be at the top of the field, whatever it takes.
You always said Monaco is one of your favourite races on the calendar. Why is this and what are your expectations for this weekend?
Personally, I love this city ever since I’ve been a little child. Monaco was also the first Formula 1 Grand Prix I ever saw. So, racing on the same track as those drivers I watched when I was a kid, is a very special experience and feeling for me. Following the good results from Barcelona I think, as a team, we have a fantastic result here. Fabio and I, we can both be at the top during this race event.
Practice: Thu 24 May 2012, 12:00 (GMT+2)Qualifying: Thu 24 May 2012, 16:55 (GMT+2)Race 1: Fri 25 May 2012, 10:30 (GMT+2)Race 2: Sat 26 May 2012, 16:10 (GMT+2)