First year GP2 Series team MP Motorsport celebrated its maiden podium in the FIA Formula One World Championship support category during round eight in Monaco on Saturday, 25th May, with Adrian Quaife-Hobbs racing to a famous second place on the streets of the Principality.
Off the back of an incredible top eight result during a dramatic and incident packed seventh round on Friday, 24th May, Quaife-Hobbs made the most of his ‘reverse grid’ pole position for the Sprint Race to scorch away from the line and lead for the first couple of laps.
Although having to succumb to the challenge of championship leader Stefano Coletti at the exit of the tunnel on the third tour, Quaife-Hobbs didn’t put a wheel wrong thereafter and saw off the ever present threat of Mitch Evans and Felipe Nasr to the chequered flag on lap 30.
Not only taking his and the team’s first podium in GP2 at the calendar’s crown jewel event, the result has enabled Quaife-Hobbs to rocket up the championship standings from 17th position, prior to the weekend, into 11th place.
“It’s amazing”, said an elated Quaife-Hobbs after race two, “Obviously we were helped a little bit [in race one] with the crash at Turn One, but I was still fast and I overtook [Stephane] Richelmi on the last lap to get the pole for race two which completely turned my weekend around. This podium is a great reward for the team and how hard they’ve worked.”
Capping two very strong races for MP Motorsport, team-mate Daniël De Jong claimed his first point of the 2013 campaign with 10th place in round seven – a fantastic achievement considering he had to battle back from a drive-through penalty – before adding ninth place in round eight.
Like Quaife-Hobbs, De Jong was able to avoid the chaos in Friday’s race to post an impressively strong result and he converted his fifth row grid slot for round eight into his second top 10 finish of the weekend. Frustratingly, the Dutchman was a mere 0.6 seconds shy of a top eight points result in race two after an impressively competitive drive.
“It’s really great to score my first point of the season in GP2”, said De Jong, “Race one was pretty crazy at the start but we managed to come through OK without getting any damage. It was disappointing to get the penalty but the car was good so I could do some good lap times and take a good finish. We were really close to scoring again in race two, overtaking was impossible though.”
Quaife-Hobbs and De Jong impress on streets of Monte-Carlo
At the start of Friday’s race, chaos reigned almost immediately with a multi-car tangle at the first corner, Ste Devote, resulted in a red flag stoppage. Quaife-Hobbs managed to expertly thread his way through past the stricken cars into eighth position while De Jong just managed to squeeze through the middle of two collisions to emerge in ninth place.
Following a lengthy delay, the race was re-started behind the Safety Car in the order at the time of the stoppage. Running in eighth and ninth, Quaife-Hobbs and De Jong circulated in that order until the former took his mandatory pit-stop at the end of the 10th tour – from which he emerged in 11th place, ahead of Jon Lancaster who had been holding his compatriot up during the early stages.
While the majority of front-runners stopped during the next few laps, De Jong remained on track until the end of the 15th tour when he pitted from second place. Unfortunately for the Dutchman, a problem with the rear jack cost him significant time and the frustration was compounded when he was given a drive-through penalty for straying over the yellow line when exiting the pits.
Despite that, De Jong produced a determined drive to claw his way back into contention for the top 10 from 16th place. Swarming all over the back of Tom Dillmann’s car into the last couple of laps, De Jong sliced past on the final tour to brilliantly secure his first championship point of the season.
Quaife-Hobbs, meanwhile, was up into ninth place when De Jong pitted and spent lap after lap bottled up behind the clearly slower Stephane Richelmi. With the ‘reverse grid’ pole position there for the taking, the MP Motorsport driver threw everything he could at trying to find a way by.
Absolutely glued to Richelmi’s car during the closing stages, Quaife-Hobbs managed to make the breakthrough at the end of the penultimate tour to edge ahead into eighth position – importantly sealing the coveted pole spot for Saturday’s race.
With light rain in the air ahead of round eight, there was some uncertainty as to whether the race would be affected but the precipitation didn’t worsen so the entire 30 lap encounter took place on slick tyres.
Quaife-Hobbs launched away from the line well to maintain his place at the front and he scorched into a strong early lead from points leader Coletti. Although quickly coming under pressure from the Monegasque driver, the MP Motorsport racer looked assured but Coletti benefited from a great run through the tunnel on lap three to shoot past on the inside into the Nouvelle Chicane.
Although Coletti initially pulled well clear as Quaife-Hobbs had to focus on the pressure from Mitch Evans behind, the Briton did close back in to the leader midway through but the order remained unchanged to the finish.
De Jong, meanwhile, maintained 10th position off the start and shadowed Richelmi lap after lap as a big train of cars built up behind the Monaco native. By lap 13, the group had caught eighth placed Sam Bird and three laps later Richelmi and De Jong made their way past. Running in ninth, De Jong initially lost some ground to his rival but closed back in to finish a mere 0.6 seconds shy at the flag.
“It really has been an intensive weekend for the team, everyone worked so hard to improve the car after qualifying but to take our first podium with Adrian is much more than we expected”, said team principal Sander Dorsman.
“Adrian and Daniël both did a really great job in the races, it’s great for them both to have scored points this weekend. Being on the podium in Monaco is really special. We now focus on the next round at Silverstone at the end of next month. Being a new GP2 team we are still learning and improving and we are sure we can perform stronger in Silverstone.”
Rounds nine and 10 of the 2013 GP2 Series will take place at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in the UK on 29th/30th June, running as support to the British Grand Prix.
2013 GP2 Series Driver Standings (after Rd8):
11th Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, 23pts; 23rd Daniël De Jong, 1pt
2013 GP2 Series Team Standings (after Rd8):
10th MP Motorsport, 24pts
Photo by Paolo Pellegrini / Web-Agency Motorsport Images