It’s when the time comes to clinch victory that a champion shows his mettle. On Saturday Jolyon Palmer won the main race and wrapped up the 2014 GP2 title – in style! He has been in the lead since the first meeting and has racked up four victories, three pole positions and clinched seven front row places in 10 meetings. Thus, Jolyon gave DAMS their third drivers’ title in the last four years. His team-mate Stéphane Richelmi had a much less successful weekend in Russia, and will be able to take his revenge in Abu Dhabi in a month where DAMS will try to win the teams’ crown.
Russia stacked all the odds in its favour to host the GP2 Series in a magnificent setting on the shores of the Black Sea in blazing sunshine. The layout was reminiscent of the Valencia city circuit. Before the meeting got under way everybody was still suffering from the shock of the terrible accident at Suzuka. Once racing began the drivers buckled down to the task in hand. In free practice Palmer’s fastest time was 0.5 sec in front of his closest rival confirming his stranglehold on the championship. On the other hand Richelmi was unable to get to grips with the track and was only 20th. In qualifying the championship leader was fourth quickest putting him on the second row of the grid. His team-mate was still struggling and was 21st.
The opening laps of the race were chaotic and brought out the safety car. DAMS’s quick reactions and Plalmer’s mastery worked miracles while it was the opposite case with the poleman and leader, Stoffel Vandoorne, who failed to choose the right moment to pit and change tyres, and he had to let Jolyon into the lead in the last quarter of the event. The British driver fought off the attacks of Mitch Evans con brio and won without problems to wrap up the title. Richelmi started from further back on the grid and the team bet on a daring strategy to help him move up the field. Unfortunately, unlike his team-mate, the intervention of the safety car ruined his plans. The Monegasque drank the cup to the bitter dregs as he was handicapped at the end of the race following a squabble in the mid-field and saw the flag in 22nd spot.
On Sunday Lady Luck didn’t smile on Palmer who was tagged by Marciello in the first corner and rejoined in 25th place. He put on a stunning display pulling off some marvellous overtaking moves and saw the flag in 10th spot. Richelmi was still struggling to find the right rhythm and saw the flag in 18th place.
The GP2 Series now has a month’s break before the final round in Abu Dhabi where DAMS will do battle with Carlin to clinch the teams’ crown.
Jean-Paul Driot, DAMS’s Owner : “First of all I can’t celebrate this title without a thought for Jules Bianchi and his family. Then I would like to offer my heartiest congratulations to the whole DAMS team for their exemplary championship. Three drivers’ titles in four seasons shows just how good they are! They were able to count on a great driver who combined speed, experience, mastery and race intelligence. A big bravo to Jolyon who drove a stunning championship and deserves his chance in F1. Now we just have to finish with a flourish with the teams’ title and we’re also relying on Stéphane, who, we hope will be back in Monza mode to help us achieve this.”
Jolyon Palmer : “What an incredible feeling! I want to thank the whole DAMS team who’ve done an incredible job. The mechanics and engineers have all be remarkable. All year we’ve been in contention for pole and victory in the main races. It’s been a dream season and the fact of winning the title on my first match point is the cherry on the cake! I really adore this team and I’ll do everything to see that they’re rewarded by a title as well.
Stéphane Richelmi : « First of all congratulations to Jolyon for his title; he really deserves it. From my point of view it was a weekend to forget. I was never able to find the right rhythm and I didn’t have confidence in the car’s balance, and race circumstances, especially on Saturday didn’t help me either. I’m going to refocus my concentration and try to finish the season on a high note in Abu Dhabi and help DAMS win the team’s crown. “
1. J. Palmer, 256 points ; 2. F. Nasr, 200 ; 3. S. Vandoorne, 192… 10. S. Richelmi, 63.
1. DAMS, 319 points ; 2. Carlin, 268 ; 3. ART, 218.
Final round: Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, 22-23 November.