Feature Race (July 9th)
Jules Bianchi won a thrilling Feature Race event at Silverstone in a race defined changing track conditions.
The Italian led from pole position, building a four-second gap to fellow podium sitters Christian Vietoris and Marcus Ericsson.
Victory did not come easily for Bianchi, as first Álvaro Parente and later Vietoris pushed the Lotus-ART hard on the drying surface. Indeed Bianchi and Vietoris’ wheel-to-wheel confrontation during the middle stages of the race may go down as one of GP2’s finest ever battles.
Due to the torrid conditions, the race started under the safety car, but from the first green flag on lap four, Bianchi held his nerve, keeping Parente behind. At the first signs of a dry line, Parente’s feel dropped away allowing Vietoris into 2nd place, albeit eight seconds behind the leader.
Vietoris gambled for dry tyres on lap 15 – a tour before Bianchi – but such was the effectiveness of the slick Pirelli’s, the gap at the front reduced to less than a second in a single lap.
With Bianchi struggling for grip and tyre temperature, Vietoris seized the moment, taking the lead in Luffied, only for Bianchi to grab it back at Copse.
The wheel-to-wheel fight continued through the Maggots/Becketts section, with Vietoris charging around the outside of Stowe, but again Bianchi had an answer as he threw his Lotus-ART machine down the inside of Vale. This time Vietoris had no comeback.
While Bianchi pulled out a 4.1 second lead come the flag, Vietoris noted Marcus Ericsson creep up from behind, with 4th place Romain Grosjean in close company.
Ericsson had struggled in the opening laps after taking a dry set-up, but it would pay dividends following his lap 13 stop. After dropping to 7th, Ericsson was 3rd once everyone changed to slicks, charging to the rear of 2nd place.
Grosjean was more forceful on his way to 4th place. Starting on the seventh row, the DAMS pilot charged his way to 6th by lap 12, claiming another spot in the pits, before passing a struggling Dani Clos on lap 19, setting the fastest lap along the way.
Like Ericsson, Sam Bird found life difficult in the wet, but he too utilised strategy to rise back up the order, settling for 5th, with a large gap to 6th place Clos.
The Spaniard suffered opposing, if similar issues to the iSport pairing, whereby his Racing Engineering entry ran well in the wet, but poorly in the dry. A podium finish was on the cards for a time, but as the sun came out, Clos fell away.
Clos’ experience was far different than that of Stefano Coletti and Giedo van der Garde who finished 7th and 8th respectively, despite starting 21st (Coletti) and 19th (van der Garde), grabbing the final points as a reward.
There was no joy however for Jolyon Palmer. The Englishman clouted Esteban Gutierrez hard at Vale in a challenge for 9th spot, earning a 30-second penalty for his troubles.
Of note, Kevin Mirocha injured his shoulder, sidelining him for the weekend.
2011 GP2 Round of Silverstone (Rd 5, Feature Race, 29 laps) Pos Driver Team Time / Gap 1. Jules Bianchi Lotus-ART 58:40.010 2. Christian Vietoris Racing Engineering +4.177 3. Marcus Ericsson iSport +4.935 4. Romain Grosjean DAMS +5.627 5. Sam Bird iSport +11.424 6. Dani Clos Racing Engineering +23.293 7. Stefano Coletti Trident +31.959 8. Giedo van der Garde Barwa Addax +33.711 9. Álvaro Parente Carlin +34.394 10. Esteban Gutierrez Lotus-ART +41.761 FL. Romain Grosjean 1:43.274
Sprint Race (July 10th)
Not only did Romain Grosjean take charge of the Sprint Race, he also took charge of the GP2 Series standings.
The French / Swiss pilot started 5th (becoming 4th when Stefano Coletti stalled), jumping Sam Bird for 3rd several turns in.
As the race aged, Dutchman Giedo van der Garde lost the best of his Pirelli’s allowing Grosjean to reel in the Barwa Addax racer, before making a move for 2nd on the fifteenth tour.
Race leader Dani Clos was also struggling on his tyres, leaving plumes of tyre smoke with every locked brake. Sensing victory, Grosjean closed the two-second gap to Clos, forcing the issue – the pass – through the fast Copse corner – an elegant piece of overtaking.
It was a serene drive from Grosjean who stretched his lead to seven second come the chequered flag.
Clos held onto 2nd spot, but not by much. With Clos in trouble, a train of cars lined-up behind the Spaniard, with van der Garde leading the charge in 3rd.
There was more action behind. Running 4th for the duration, Bird lost the best of his Pirelli’s in the latter stages, allowing teammate Marcus Ericsson and Jules Bianchi a push for position.
With Bird unable to defend, Ericsson swept passed his sluggish teammate with three laps to go, before Bianchi made the move on the last tour, dropping Bird to 6th.
Sadly van der Garde, Ericsson and Bianchi ran out of laps – the foursome were covered by a mere 2.4 seconds at the close of play.
Still, they enjoyed better runs than Julian Leál. The Colombian picked up a ten-second stop / go penalty for a jump-start, before receiving another penalty for speeding in the pitlane, while taking his stop / go.
For the first time in the 2011 GP2 season, someone had grabbed a healthy lead in the title hunt – and with the season now into its second half, Grosjean’s Feature Race performances were becoming key.
2011 GP2 Round of Silverstone (Rd 5, Sprint Race, 21 laps) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Romain Grosjean DAMS 36:42.650 2. Dani Clos Racing Engineering +7.019 3. Giedo van der Garde Barwa Addax +7.760 4. Marcus Ericsson iSPort +8.433 5. Jules Bianchi Lotus-ART +9.427 6. Sam Bird iSport +12.924 7. Christian Vietoris Racing Engineering +20.853 8. Esteban Gutierrez Lotus-ART +21.888 9. Álvaro Parente Carlin +22.128 10. Charles Pic Barwa Addax +23.154 FL. Stefano Coletti 1:43.262 2011 GP2 Series (Rd 5) Drivers’ Championship Pos Driver Points 1. Romain Grosjean 47 2. Giedo van der Garde 38 3. Sam Bird 32 4. Davide Valsecchi 30 5. Charles Pic 24 Teams’ Championship Pos Team Points 1. Barwa Addax 62 3. iSport 49 4. DAMS 47 4. AirAsia 41 5. Racing Engineering 40