The GP2 Series visited the first of the two street circuits on the 2016 calendar this weekend -the shortest track on the calendar but one of the most challenging with its tight track width.
It was a mixed weekend for the Arden drivers as their opportunity for top 10 grid positions was lost during a shortened qualifying session, where the 22 driver field is split into two groups with 15minutes per group session. Jimmy and Nabil both qualified eleventh in their respective groups.
The race pace was certainly there, with Jimmy on the prime (Soft) Pirelli tyre matching race leader Norman Nato’s (Racing Engineering) lap times during Race 1 and Nabil defeating in sector 1, bringing his lap times down to compete alongside the top runners. Unfortunately, Jimmy received some damage to the rear of the car as Pierre Gasly (Prema) overshot his braking point at the Swimming Pool, later forcing Jimmy to retire with just 8 laps to go. Nabil made a slight error at Turn 18 on lap 24, ending his race with a touch into the tyre barrier.
With more confidence of track experience and the confirmation of pace from the feature race, the Arden rookies had a more positive outlook for race two on Saturday afternoon. Jimmy had a great start, springing two places on the start to run sixteenth to the chequered flag. Team-mate Nabil had a good start but was unable to make any head-way in a track with little over-taking opportunities.
Nabil Jeffri: “I felt confident as my preparation for Monaco was really good. I knew what I had to do where and it went well straight away. I was happy with the pre-race preparation with my engineer. I think I did really badly in qualifying because I had a feeling I was driving better in FP1. I think I was just too cautious and not pushing the car to its limit. During Race 1 I had a really good feeling, I was starting to feel more confident with the track and the car and the only thing that was disappointing is the crash after the virtual safety car. In race 2 I was just physically tired and I was just trying my best to hold Antonio Giovinazzi (Prema) behind me.”
Jimmy: “In Qualifying the pace just wasn’t there. I was last in my group, by only some hundredths, but a few more and it would have given me four positions. The front drivers in the other group were quicker, but the difference was bigger so this pushed me back in the starting positions.
In race one I had a good start, gaining one or two positions down into turn 1. Then when everything settled after first lap, I got stuck behind a queue of traffic, but luckily Gustav Malja ahead made an early pit stop and there was a big gap in front of him so I got some clean air and made up about 1.5seconds, catching the drivers in front - I was matching the lap times of the leaders. All this time I had Pierre Gasly (Prema) behind me, he was probably a bit quicker than me, but it wasn’t enough for him to overtake. Unfortunately, I made a mistake coming out of the tunnel and locked up the front wheels, missing the chicane. So not to gain an advantage, I had to let him get close again. Down into the swimming pool, he was very close to me, I braked and his missed his braking point and hit me from behind. The car felt ok, it was just damage to the floor and rear, so I carried on and was catching the drivers in front again. Just before the pit stop, I felt something loosen in the rear on the in lap to the stop. I was hoping it was only a puncture but going out on new tyres, the problem was still there. I tried to continue but decided to stop to not risk more damage at this circuit and stay safe. It was such a shame as the pace was good and before the incident I was running with a chance of points. I was confident I could’ve kept the position with the fresher tyres we had. After a difficult qualifying it would have been nice to pick up my first points.
It's very hard to overtake around here, but it was still another valuable experience. I'm obviously hoping to return here in the future, and every lap you can rack up will be a benefit. I have enjoyed driving here this weekend, and now, we will work our hardest to get to a position where we can score some good points. We still need to find some performance in qualifying, but our race pace is strong - and that makes me optimistic going forward."