Feature Race (June 25th)
Following a month long mid-season break, the GP2 Series picked up again on the streets of Valencia, with Romain Grosjean inheriting a victory from Giedo van der Garde.
In what was a fairly uneventful race, Grosjean – who drove impeccably – ran 2nd behind his Barwa Addax rival for much of the distance, until a penalty dropped van der Garde down the order.
It wasn’t the first bit of luck for Grosjean either. The DAMS pilot was to start 3rd on the grid when Charles Pic stalled on the dummy grid, allowing Grosjean a clear run to the first turn.
A solid start gave van der Garde an uncontested lead, opening the gap to over five seconds by the half way, until the Dutchman raced hard through a yellow flag zone earning a drive through penalty.
With van der Garde removed from the action, Grosjean cruised to victory and full points.
Van der Garde did recover to 2nd place however. Emerging from his drive through in 4th, the Barwa Addax man swept passed Racing Engineering’s Dani Clos, before engaging in a wheel-to-wheel battle with Davide Valsecchi (AirAsia) for the runner-up spot.
After several attempts, van der Garde forced an error from his Italian rival, forcing his way through to 2nd on the penultimate lap. Valsecchi continued home to 3rd – a very good effort considering his 8th place starting spot.
Clos, who struggled for tyre grip late in his stints, crossed the finish line a solid 4th, albeit with a mere four-tenths advantage over the feisty Sam Bird (5th, iSport) and Luiz Razia (6th, AirAsia). Indeed Clos had been running as high as 3rd in the early laps, until tyre wear and a stretched strategy got the better of him.
There was some little luck too for the Spaniard – having passed Luca Filippi during the pitstops, the Italian’s attempt at a retake went awry, clipping the rear of Clos hard in turn 17. Clos continued – Filippi, damaged, did not.
Esteban Gutierrez took 7th and two points, although a long way behind Razia after he lost out in the tyre stops. Josef Kral secured the final point after a magnificent drive that saw him climb from 22nd on the grid to 8th due to some top class racing and strategy.
Jules Bianchi, Filippi, Fabio Leimer and Pål Varhaug proved less impressive at the start, as they collided hard with each other and the luckless Álvaro Parente and Marcus Ericsson.
It brought out the safety for several laps, while track marshals cleared the carbon fibre rubble and would see the foursome take grid penalties for the Sprint Race.
2011 GP2 Round of Valencia (Rd 4, Feature Race, 30 laps) Pos Driver Team Time / Gap 1. Romain Grosjean DAMS 58:19.400 2. Giedo van der Garde Barwa Addax +15.481 3. Davide Valsecchi AirAsia +20.901 4. Dani Clos Racing Engineering +24.010 5. Sam Bird iSport +24.323 6. Luiz Razia AirAsia +24.495 7. Esteban Gutierrez Lotus-ART +48.097 8. Josef Kral Arden +51.064 9. Jolyon Palmer Arden +53.632 10. Michael Herck Scuderia Coloni +57.032 FL. Romain Grosjean 1:49.591
Sprint Race (June 26th)
Esteban Gutierrez certainly made no mistakes on the way to his first GP2 victory in the following day’s Sprint Race.
The Mexican followed polesitter Josef Kral off the line; however the race was quickly neutralised by a first lap safety car period thanks to two separate incidents.
Both incidents were instigated by Romain Grosjean, as first the DAMS man ran into the rear of Sam Bird and Luiz Razia at turn two, before Grosjean spun at turn five, collecting Charles Pic and Rodolfo Gonzalez. In the melee Jolyon Palmer, Max Chilton and Álvaro Parente also received damage. It would see Grosjean pick up a grid penalty for the next round at Silverstone.
Gutierrez made the most of the lap three restart, forcing Kral wide at turn two. In free air, the Lotus-ART pilot took charge of proceedings, showing a maturity that appeared allusive for during the early part of the season. As he stretched his legs, Gutierrez also picked up the point for fastest lap.
Unfortunately for Kral, the following few tours proved to be something of a free-for-all, as first Razia took the Czech pilot, before Giedo van der Garde and Dani Clos demoted the Arden man to 5th.
A spin into retirement on the fourteenth lap pull a full-stop on Kral’s morning.
Razia initially pushed Gutierrez for the lead, before falling back toward van der Garde in the closing laps, although the Dutchman didn’t have quite enough to force a pass for 2nd place by the time they crossed the finish line.
Clos wasn’t quite as strong under pressure. The Spaniard used the best of his tyres early, allowing Davide Valsecchi into play. Valsecchi would not need many invitations to grab 4th, and with three tours of Valencia remaining, the Italian dropped Clos to 5th spot.
Michael Herck enjoyed a quiet run to a rare points finish. Starting from the fifth row, the Romanian held his nerve, while others lost theirs, with Herck rising to 6th following Kral’s exit.
Jules Bianchi and Pål Varhaug enjoyed positive runs to the top ten, despite both starting from the twelfth row. The pairing used force to power their way through the field, to finish 7th (Bianchi) and 10th (Varhaug) – mere seconds outside the points.
With the Championship beginning to hot up, Grosjean seized the initiative, despite a poor result on Sunday, yet with only ten points separating the top five, everything remained up for grabs.
2011 GP2 Round of Valencia (Rd 4, Sprint Race, 23 laps) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Esteban Gutierrez Lotus-ART 43:34.905 2. Luiz Razia AirAsia +12.995 3. Giedo van der Garde Barwa Addax +13.842 4. Davide Valsecchi AirAsia +26.633 5. Dani Clos Racing Engineering +30.130 6. Michael Herck Scuderia Coloni +30.374 7. Jules Bianchi Lotus-ART +34.651 8. Kevin Mirocha Ocean Racing Tech. +34.677 9. Julian Leal Rapax +36.728 10. Pål Varhaug DAMS +37.615 FL. Esteban Gutierrez 1:49.916 2011 GP2 Series (Rd 4) Drivers’ Championship Pos Driver Points 1. Romain Grosjean 34 2. Giedo van der Garde 33 3. Davide Valsecchi 30 4. Sam Bird 27 5. Charles Pic 24 Teams’ Championship Pos Team Points 1. Barwa Addax 57 2. AirAsia 41 3. iSport 35 4. DAMS 34 5. Racing Engineering 24