Jolyon keeps up bid to follow Lewis Hamilton as GP2 champion

Jolyon Palmer (left) has been on the podium in all four races of the season so far
Jolyon Palmer (left) has been on the podium in all four races of the season so far

Jolyon Palmer extended his lead in the GP2 Championship standings to 22 points with two second places in Barcelona at the weekend (May 9 to 11).

The Southwater racer has now stood on the podium in all four races of the F1 support series this season, having taken a win and a third at the last round in Bahrain.

The fastest man in practice on Friday, Jolyon qualified second on the grid for Saturday’s Feature Race, just behind DAMS team mate Stéphane Richelmi.

At the start of the race, several drivers, including pole sitter Richelmi stalled on the grid ending the formation lap, handing Jolyon a de facto pole position.

Jolyon led off the line on the restart but was challenged into turn one by Mitch Evans and Stefano Coletti. Evans and Coletti collided allowing Jolyon to ease into the lead, although early progress was halted by the deployment of the safety car following an incident around the opening lap.

When the safety car pitted with four laps completed, Jolyon stretched a small advantage over Felipe Nasr before the pair opted to pit on lap six.

When the drivers now in front had all pitted Jolyon again found himself in the lead, though Johnny Cecotto played the perfect strategy, and his fresher tyres allowed him to pass for the lead to take the win, leaving Jolyon to fight off Nasr to claim second place.

With the top eight finishers in the race reversed for Sunday’s Sprint Race, Jolyon lined-up seventh for the second contest, but made a great start to run in third place at the end of lap one.

Making an audacious passing move at turn six on Tom Dillmann on lap five, Palmer set his attentions on Nasr who was leading, and immediately closed to within 0.6 seconds of the Brazilian driver.

After several close laps Nasr managed to stretch out a gap to win, with Jolyon finishing second again to move 22 points ahead of his nearest rival in the GP2 Championships, which hasn’t been won by a British driver since Lewis Hamilton in 2006.

Jolyon said afterwards: “I was really happy with race one. I just managed to avoid Evans and Coletti crashing at the first corner but unfortunately I took small damage to the front wing.

“Despite this we had a good car and the pace was strong all race. Cecotto was in a different league on race pace though so the win wasn’t possible but I was very happy to hold of Nasr and keep second.

“In race two I had a good start and first few corners to get up to third. Then I passed Dillmann and started to chase down Nasr but couldn’t quite get close enough for a move.

“In the end I thought I could challenge him again in the closing laps but I started to struggle with the brakes so had to settle for second.

“It’s more good points though and I’m very happy with the weekend overall.”

Jolyon’s next races in the GP2 Series are on the world famous streets of Monaco, scene of his first GP2 win in 2012.