Nowhere on the motorsports calendar is risk more greatly rewarded than on the streets of Monaco. But Saturday’s GP3 race reminded us all of the very real dangers that exist when racing on this tight and challenging track.
Conor Daly’s Lotus was launched into the air and the trackside barriers after contact with Dmitry Suranovich’s Manor car, the resultant accident drawing nearly 700,000 viewers on YouTube in the past 48 hours.
Here, the American gives us his exclusive insight into the accident and his thoughts on the rights and wrongs of an incident which has highlighted many questions about how strongly the right to defend a position should be upheld, especially around a track such as Monte Carlo.
First up Conor, it’s great to see that you’re OK after what was a huge accident. You appeared to be fine getting out of the car but I know you had to visit the medical centre. How are you doing?
Conor Daly - I am doing all right at the moment. Every muscle in my body seems to be extremely sore and I’ve got a bruise on the bottom of my jaw but that’s no problem. I just can’t wait to get back in the race car in Valencia!
It was a big accident, can you talk us through what happened, from your perspective?
Conor Daly – Well, basically I had passed several cars up to the point where I then caught Suranovich. I knew where my car was strong and I knew where my opportunities to make a move would be. My car was so good that I could run incredibly close behind him and was literally putting pressure on him at every corner.
I could see he was driving in his mirrors though because at one point out of turn one going up the hill I was almost bump drafting him up to turn three and he nearly drove straight into the wall because he was watching me! He started making small moves to the inside of every corner in the brake zone. He did this once heading into the very tight hairpin and was extremely slow at the apex trying to stop me from getting a good exit and I made contact with his car removing his rear wing. It was certainly not was I was planning to do but I knew my car was still not in bad shape so I kept pushing.
It was now getting dangerous because he was driving in his mirrors without a rear wing, braking at random points on the track just so he could stay in front of me. I was doing everything I could to make a clean pass because honestly I just wanted to finish the race after the disaster first race I had. Every lane I tried to take on track to get around him he would move to block. What also made it difficult is that having no rear wing he had a lot of speed in a straight line. I knew I had to get a good run out of the corner leading up to the tunnel straight and I did.
I made an early move and immediately he tried to move in front of me so I decided to wait until the exit of the tunnel because I knew for a fact he couldn’t brake later than me without a rear wing. I knew I would have to brake late though because he cut the track on the previous lap through the chicane because he missed his braking, and nothing was done about that. I was so close though that I went straight for the inside knowing he would block and when he did I went straight for the outside because I knew that I could still out brake him on the outside but he immediately went to take that line which surprised me so I said to myself that surely he can’t be making a third move and I wanted to get back to the inside but he braked so early that before I got to the inside I shot over his rear tires.
Of course we’ve all seen what happened next. I don’t mind blocking but when you’re driving reacting to the driver in your rear view mirrors, making desperate efforts putting other drivers in danger, that’s not right.
Of course people say you can’t overtake in Monaco, but you’d proved otherwise in that race. How many people had you passed up to that point, and why was passing Suranovich proving so much harder?
Conor Daly – I came from 23rd to 12th and I got most of the cars during the turn one lap one crash but then passed 5 cars after the restart until I caught Suranovich. The cars I had to pass defended but I was still able to make clean moves on them. What was different with Suranovich is that he was reacting to my every move which not only was slowing me down but slowing both of us down dramatically as I watched the cars in front of him pull away at a high rate of speed.
Some people might argue you had your own role to play in this incident, as you had made contact with Suranovich at the hairpin and removed his rear wing. Obviously you were racing and he didn’t have to let you through, and keeping a car on track without its rear wing can’t have been an easy task.
Conor Daly – Oh I definitely understand this but what he was doing before the rear wing contact caused it to happen. Every lap he got more desperate and at Monaco we are running so close that sometimes cars make contact. The stewards didn’t even decide to investigate that event either. In fact during race one, most of the guys in the top eight came back to the paddock with scratches and bits missing off of their noses! Of course I wouldn’t want someone to get by either but when the car behind you is so much faster than you it becomes impossible to defend without being dangerous. I know what this is like because I’ve experienced it before.
We have heard conflicting reports about whether the black and orange flag was shown to Suranovich, as race control never announced that they had been put out. However after the race he was excluded for ignoring those very flags. Did you see them and for how many laps?
Conor Daly – I honestly did not see it but I think thats because I was so focused on getting by him and being glued to his gearbox so I could take advantage of any opportunity. Like I said before, he was driving in his mirrors constantly so I’m not surprised he wasn’t looking at the pit wall or flag stand.
I get the impression that this penalty isn’t strong enough in your eyes. That a simple exclusion for ignoring the black and orange flags doesn’t go any way to addressing what you see as unacceptable driving standards displayed in the race.
Conor Daly – I don’t like complaining about things and making a big deal about stuff like this but I definitely don’t want to have an accident like that again and I certainly don’t want any of my fellow competitors to have a crash like that either. So I think for sure there should be a harsher penalty. I’ve been told at the drivers meetings to respect my competitors and we all know the blocking rules but if we are allowed to block like Suranovich was blocking then we may as well not have a blocking rule at all.
I think defending makes racing quite exciting and I don’t mind being able to defend your position with the one move blocking rule but when people drive reacting to someone in their mirrors and weaving across the track that’s when it becomes dangerous.
Finally, a word for the marshals and safety crews at Monaco, the F1 medical crew, and of course for the GP3 car itself. It looks like they all did their job pretty amazingly
Conor Daly – The marshals at Monaco are fantastic and I’m sorry my car flying through the air put them in harms way. After I came to a stop they were all making sure I was okay and asking if I needed anything and they are true professionals. The F1 medical crew did an incredible job getting me where I needed to go and making sure I was okay as well. It gives a driver a lot of confidence when dealing with great safety people! Of course the car you have to compliment as well because it took a serious hit and was ripped to shreds but here I am alive and well! Thank you Dallara for proving you’re on top of race car safety!