Whilst a fourth-placed finish might leave a driver rueing a missed podium opportunity, Franco Colapinto was grateful to gift himself a seven-point haul on his birthday. Overcoming a Sprint Race that seemed a lot more straightforward on TV that it did behind the wheel, the MP Motorsport driver says that sticking close enough to shape for a move was a tall order on Monte Carlo streets.
As tyre degradation bit around the 3.337km, Colapinto admits that keeping himself away from the precarious walls was a challenge, particularly with the circuit’s characteristics making being stuck in a DRS train an undesirable place to be.
“It was really hard, actually. We had a lot of degradation and that made the race really hard. Of course, racing in between walls makes it a lot more exciting. For us drivers, it makes our life a bit more difficult. With the front deg that we had, it makes it quite tricky on such a low-speed track to keep rotating the car and keep trying to push. That makes it so hard to stay close to the guys in front and try to make an overtake.
“Fortunately, we could make an overtake that was quite nice. In the end of the race, to go from P5 to P4 was decent. To get a place around Monaco is really hard and when you get one, it’s always a good thing. I’m happy about today and focusing on tomorrow. We know we can improve the car a little bit, so we are working on that, and I think we are going in the right direction.”
For Colapinto, caution was the name of the game during the opening lap with the available tarmac swiftly disappearing on the approach to Turn 1. Not one to waste a chance to send a move, the Argentinian tested his chances elsewhere. Diving up the inside of Taylor Barnard at the Turn 6 hairpin after the Safety Car restart, he was pleased to see his gamble pay off.
“Into Turn 1 is a really short straight at the end even with the DRS, it doesn’t have such a big effect unless you are exiting from such a low-speed corner like the last one. It just makes it really hard to be close enough to drive and the track is so narrow that what you would win by overtaking, you also have to take into account the risk that you are taking.
“The risk is always quite high when you try and overtake around here, so we will try tomorrow to make some overtakes and see how the race goes. At the moment, we’re trying to improve on what we know we have to improve – that is a specific part of the track that we can give ourselves more opportunities to overtake.
He added: “I was preparing (for the move on Barnard) since Turn 1. I had decent grip after the restart, and I just used that. During the race when we had a bit more grip, it made it easier to make overtakes. When the degradation starts, it’s trickier to do that and to follow close to another car. So, I just went for the move at the hairpin and that is the slowest corner on the track. Fortunately, it went quite well, and I got the place – one more point for the Championship is always useful.”
As those around him faded away on the soft tyres, Colapinto managed to eventually get his in check and caught back up quickly to Grégoire Saucy. Despite finishing only 0.489s off of the ART Grand Prix driver, he doesn’t believe that even with the pace advantage, a podium would have been on the cards.
Instead, he’s turning his attention towards Sunday’s Feature Race. Right in the thick of it from P8 on the grid and with 27 laps to play with, Colapinto is solely focused on adding to his Championship tally and clawing back some ground from 10th in the Standings.
“We were all really close in terms of pace. When someone is going slow in front of you, it just makes your life a lot more difficult with the dirty air. It just makes everyone go a quite a consistent pace. Unfortunately, I don’t think we could have overtaken Saucy with a few more laps. I was trying to push really hard in the last few laps to catch him. I saw he was locking up and having some issues with the tyres, so I thought maybe there was some opportunity, but in the end there was not.”
“The main thing is to try to get some more points. We know it’s a hard track to overtake on and even if we have the pace it’s going to be difficult. We’re going to try to use our experience from today to go for it in the first couple of laps and see how it goes.”