King battles to top-rookie honours on Monaco debut

Monte Carlo, 25th May 2015
Jordan King last weekend finished in a GP2 series points-paying position on his debut in Monte Carlo, the third round of the Formula 1-feeder series.

The 21-year old Brit, who’s in his rookie season with the Spanish Racing Engineering team, was relishing the chance to race on the hallowed street circuit on which speed, bravery, accuracy and tactical nous are always rewarded.

“I’d raced on street circuits in a small, relatively low-powered F3 car before,” says King, “but there’s nothing quite like Monaco – especially in a much bigger, more powerful GP2 car with carbon brakes.”

Right from the outset, King set impressive lap times as he familiarised himself with the legendary, but quirky, venue.

“In practice, the team gave me a great set-up and I was able to post the sixth quickest time, even on the prime [harder-compound] tyre,” King reflects. “There were no major issues at all and I was really pleased with my initial running. I’m relying on the experience of the team as I settle into GP2 racing, particularly at somewhere like Monaco, and they did a great job.”

For qualifying, in which cars are split into two groups to reduce traffic problems on the narrow streets, King was unlucky to be in the group hit by rain. Despite the tricky conditions, he set the fourth-quickest time, which translated into a highly respectable eighth on the grid for his first race in the Principality.

“As usual in the cut and thrust of qualifying, there were yellow flags and traffic to deal with, so the team and I felt I could’ve gone quicker still,” King admitted. “We were happy, though, and it was satisfying to be lining up as top rookie.”

A clean start allowed King to settle into a rhythm for the first of the weekend’s two races – the longer, feature race with compulsory pitstop.

“I started on the option [softer-compound] tyre and settled down well, setting good, fast laps before the tyres started to go off,” King says. “The pitstop onto the prime tyre went well and I was feeling really confident. Sadly, a virtual safety-car period meant that I was leapfrogged by quite a few cars. From what would’ve been a net fifth, I was shuffled down to 12th.

“I got my head down,” King reveals, “and it transpired that the prime tyre became quicker than the option, allowing me to pass a few cars and take ninth at the flag, for two championship points. It was a very rewarding damage-limitation exercise – and to be top rookie and best of the Brits was great.”

Just one slot away from reversed-grid pole position for the second race, the shorter sprint event, King lined up ninth with more hard work to do.

“I lost a couple of places on the first lap,” he says, “having got stacked up a bit in traffic, but my speed was good. I had a great battle with DAMS driver Pierre Gasly, which was pretty entertaining.”

Unfortunately, as is often the case at Monaco, there’s very little margin for error, and the two cars collided, sending King into the barriers and into retirement. A check-up in hospital revealed bruising for King but no injuries.

“It was a disappointing end to the weekend,” admitted King, who was handed a three-place grid penalty by the stewards, to be taken next time out in Austria, for his part in the incident.

“Pierre and I have chatted about it and everything’s fine – it was one of those things.”

Reflecting on an impressive debut weekend in Monaco, King said: “I’m very happy with how it all went. It was great to be quick straight away and I feel like I’ve silenced the doubters on the subject of my getting up to speed quickly enough in this ultra-competitive championship. I can’t wait to get to the fast sweeps of the Red Bull Ring in Austria for the next round on June 20-21.”