Jolyon Palmer has been crowned the 2014 GP2 Series champion after winning today’s feature race in Russia, with title rival Felipe Nasr finishing down the order in 18th position.
Palmer has led the championship since the second race of the season in Bahrain, but finally clinched the title with a supreme win in Sochi on Saturday as he fought off Mitch Evans in the final few laps of the race.
Pole-sitter Stoffel Vandoorne had been in control of the race, wrestling the lead back from Takuya Izawa after a poor start, but a mistimed pit call under the safety car meant that he had to stay out longer than planned.
The McLaren junior driver managed to pull out a lead on the restart, but not enough to hang onto first position when he eventually took to the pits with four laps to go. He was followed into the pits by Artem Markelov, releasing Palmer into the lead of the race ahead of Evans.
Despite coming under increasing pressure, Palmer managed to hang on and claim his fourth win of the season as Nasr – the only man who could have stopped him in Sochi – was slapped with a drive-through penalty, ending his title hopes.
Palmer becomes the first British champion of the GP2 Series since Lewis Hamilton in 2006, and will now be looking to make the move up to Formula 1 in 2015.
“It feels amazing,” a speechless Palmer said on the podium after the race. “Honestly, it wasn’t going to be easy to do it this weekend, especially not today. I can’t thank the team enough. It feels amazing to be champion.
“Four years of hard work for me in GP2, and it’s an amazing end to it. We can just go out there and enjoy it and have fun [tomorrow].”
Palmer’s success will make him a prime candidate for many of the available seats in F1 next season, and it will also give him the chance to follow in his father’s footsteps, who raced in the 1980s.
2014 has seen GP2 go from strength to strength, providing some entertaining racing on the F1 undercard. Not only has Palmer been a worthy champion, but the likes of Stoffel Vandoorne and Raffaele Marciello have come to the fore as racing stars for the future.
Following tomorrow’s sprint race, GP2 will take another one month break before rejoining the F1 schedule for the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi.
Roll of Honor – GP2 Champions
2005 Nico Rosberg
2006 Lewis Hamilton
2007 Timo Glock
2008 Giorgio Pantano
2009 Nico Hulkenberg
2010 Pastor Maldonado
2011 Romain Grosjean
2012 Davide Valsecchi
2013 Fabio Leimer
2014 Jolyon Palmer