Stefano Coletti garnered his first GP2 Series victory yesterday with a measured drive in Abu Dhabi.
The Monegasque racer picked up something of an advantage when fellow front row man, Sam Bird, got a poor start to be passed by the swift Giedo van der Garde.
Unfortunately for van der Garde, he would receive a drive through penalty early, thanks to mechanic retrieving tools from his sidepod, just as the lights went out for the warm up lap. The Dutchman took the penalty on the fifth lap, essentially dropping him to the rear of the field for the duration.
Van der Garde would soon be joined by Dani Clos, as the Spaniard stalled on the grid for the second consecutive race, completing a nightmare weekend for the Racing Engineering driver.
A decent weekend for Romain Grosjean turned somewhat sour on the opening lap too. The Renault reserve got off the line well, only to be passed by championship rival Jules Bianchi in the first few turns. That dropped Grosjean to 9th; however that became a retirement half-a-lap later, as the DAMS driver was tapped into a spin by Michael Herck.
Things wee going rather better for Marcus Ericsson. The young Swede made a good start and after a few laps attempted moves on Davide Valsecchi, finally drew himself into 4th spot to leave him trailing Coletti, Bird and Josef Kral after six laps
The race became rather static after the opening half-a-dozen laps as the field fell into a long line of machines, with only Nathanael Berthon making any progress. The Frenchman spent the initial stint in 11th place, but moves passed Rodolfo Gonzalez and Johnny Cecotto made that 9th.
A collective shuffle came on lap 23 as Sam Bird lost the rear of his iSport machine, planting the Dallara chassis into the barriers. It brought Kral up to 2nd position – his highest GP2 position to date. Sadly there was to be no such progress for Mikhail Aleshin – the Russian driver had been having a difficult time in Abu Dhabi and found himself out of the race with only three laps remaining.
Out front, Coletti continued home, taking the chequered flag in style. His gap to Kral – at 2.629 seconds – may not have been emphatic, but it did not need to be. The Trident racer has shown much improved pace during both the tests and the first weekend and now comes away with his first GP2 victory, while never once looking pressurised from behind.
For Josef Kral, runner-up spot is also a big improvement, especially as the Czech Republic native calmly held off a push by Marcus Ericsson in 3rd.
Feature Race winner, Jules Bianchi had originally come across the line in 4th spot, but was later given a 2-second penalty for passing under yellow flags, dropping the Frenchman down to 8th. It was a shame for Bianchi, who had run a good race up until that point having made last passes on Davide Valsecchi and Fabio Leimer.
It promoted Davide Valsecchi to 4th, followed by the bumper machine that is Michael Herck (5th). Herck has also forced his by Leimer in the dying laps, as Leimer’s tyres gave up. Leimer eventually took the final points place.
Nathanael Berthon and Charles Pic had originally come home 8th and 10th, but both received 20 second penalties for not respecting yellow flags – it would drop them down to 14th (Berthon) and 21st (Pic). Johnny Cecotto crossed the line 7th to be classified ahead of Bianchi, as Jolyon Palmer and Rodolfo Gonzalez rounded out the top ten.
Like the Feature Race, Saturday afternoon’s GP2 Asia adventure was a dour affair with not much overtaking, nor much of an opportunity to pass. Indeed, drivers more or less slipped down the order depending on the state of their tyres – worrying, should this set the scene for the rest of the season.
Race Rating: 2 out of 5
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Stefano Coletti Trident 43m02.819s 2. Josef Kral Arden + 2.629s 3. Marcus Ericsson iSport + 3.323s 4. Davide Valsecchi AirAsia + 11.531s 5. Michael Herck Coloni + 14.687s 6. Fabio Leimer Rapax + 17.175s 7. Johnny Cecotto Super Nova + 25.351s 8. Jules Bianchi ART + 9.434s** 9. Rodolfo Gonzalez Trident + 30.947s 10. Jolyon Palmer Arden + 32.897s 11. Andrea Caldarelli Ocean + 33.396s 12. Esteban Gutierrez ART + 33.643s 13. James Jakes Coloni + 34.526s 14. Nathanael Berthon Racing Engineering + 17.426s** 15. Fairuz Fauzy Super Nova + 38.094s 16. Luiz Razia AirAsia + 38.830s 17. Julian Leal Rapax + 39.280s 18. Max Chilton Carlin + 42.205s 19. Oliver Turvey Ocean + 42.677s 20. Pal Varhaug DAMS + 43.137s 21. Charles Pic Addax + 25.493s** 22. Dani Clos Racing Engineering + 47.035s 23. Giedo van der Garde Addax + 49.926s Retirements: Mikhail Aleshin Carlin 23 laps Sam Bird iSport 21 laps Romain Grosjean DAMS 0 laps **20-second penalty
Pos Driver Points 1. Jules Bianchi 12 2. Romain Grosjean 10 3. Davide Valsecchi 9 4. Marcus Ericsson 9 5. Josef Kral 8 6. Stefano Coletti 7 7. Giedo van der Garde 4 8. Michael Herck 2 9. Sam Bird 2 10. Fabio Leimer 1