Fine turnaround at Monza sees Palmer maintain GP2 lead

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Southwater’s Jolyon Palmer remains on course to become the first British GP2 champion since Lewis Hamilton after an incredible weekend turnaround at Monza.

The 23-year-old had qualified fourth for Saturday’s feature race, but was excluded from the results of qualifying after his DAMS car was found to have less than the mandatory one litre of fuel remaining at the end of the session although managed to finish eighth.

He then produced another sparkling drive to win Sunday’s sprint race, while poor results for championship rivals Felipe Nasr and Stoffel Vandoorne, means Palmer now holds a 41-point championship lead over Nasr, heading to the penultimate round in Russia in five weeks’ time.

The young driver now only needs to score eight points more than Nasr in Russia to be crowned champion a round early.

Palmer commented: “It’s been the most incredible weekend. The team made a bit of a silly mistake in qualifying but credit to DAMS because they’ve done the most unbelievable job.

“Since Friday night, when we found out we’d be starting from the back, we put our heads down and did a really good strategy and race. We knew we had to get into the top eight in yesterday’s feature race, and we managed that. From there I managed to control the race today.”

Saturday’s penalty meant Palmer was forced to start from the back of the 26-car grid, but he put in a superb fight back to minimise the championship damage.

Gaining 11 places in the first two laps, Palmer soon began to pick other drivers off to climb into the top ten, including an excellent move on Rio Haryanto around the outside of the first chicane on lap ten.

He climbed into the top-three on lap 18, and was lapping quicker than drivers behind who had already pitted for fresher rubber.

Palmer made his mandatory pit stop on lap 20 and returned to the track in tenth, just ahead of Johnny Cecotto and behind a battle for position between Julian Leal and Stefano Coletti. He then set about closing on Leal, who he passed for ninth on lap 23 with another move at the first chicane.

In clear air, Palmer then set a string of fastest laps to secure the two additional bonus points. He quickly closed on Coletti and was able to move past on the exit of the second chicane with four laps remaining.

With the top-eight finishers in the feature race reversed on the grid for Sunday’s sprint race, Palmer lined-up on pole position.

Making an excellent start to the race, he led from start to finish despite seeing an early advantage wiped out by an early safety car period. Making an excellent restart, Palmer was untroubled to claim his third victory of the season.