Feature Race (Nov 12th)
Fabio Leimer drove a faultless race to claim victory in the Feature Race of the 2011 GP2 Finale in Abu Dhabi.
Switching to Racing Engineering for the one-off non-championship event, the Swiss pilot also took pole position and fastest lap ahead of Luiz Razia and Jolyon Palmer.
In a field comprising of experienced GP2 runners, GP3 contenders and Formula Renault 3.5 racers amongst others, Leimer proved to be top of the class.
Even Leimer’s start was perfect. A clean launch off the line saw him lead easily into the first corner, while Razia fought for 2nd with Dani Clos and Josef Kral, with the latter pair clashing in turn one, taking Clos out of the race and rendering Kral wounded with a broken front wing.
Thereafter the gap between Leimer and Razia grew slowly, rising to three seconds by the ninth lap, at which point tyre wear began to steady the gap.
Leimer would not lead every lap around the Yas Marina circuit – Palmer broke the sequence for a single tour when the poleman changed tyres at the halfway point.
From there, the Racing Engineering man remained calm, bringing his red-and-yellow Dallara-Renault to the flag intact for full honours.
Razia’s race was almost as uneventful. The Brazilian enjoyed a significant head of pace over Palmer, but never quite had the legs of Leimer. Falling nearly seven seconds shy of the winner by the finish summed up the day for the Caterham AirAsia man.
Abu Dhabi proved to be tougher for Palmer. The Briton scored, not only his first points in GP2, but also his first podium, although iSport’s Marcus Ericsson ensured it was not an easy task.
Starting 14th, Ericsson was 9th after the first lap, taking three more spots by the fifth tour. A tenth lap pass on new teammate Tom Dillmann gave Ericsson another position, before the Swede jumped Kevin Ceccon in the pits for 4th.
Ericsson pressed Palmer in the final eight tours, but the Englishman absorbed the attack with maturity, making certain of 3rd.
Kevin Ceccon claimed a lonely 5th place ahead of Dillmann and Antonio Felix da Costa, both of whom fought tooth and nail for 6th in the final laps, with Dillmann winning out.
James Calado took 8th position and pole position for the Sprint Race after fending off Nathanaël Berthon, Stefano Coletti, Giacomo Ricci and Alexander Rossi in the middle section of the race.
Neither Simon Trummer nor Fabio Onidi had much to smile about after the race. While defending from Onidi, Trummer slammed into the sidepod of Jake Rosenzweig, while Onidi garnered a post-race penalty for speeding through the yellow flag zone on the following lap. Trummer was dropped to last for the Sprint Race.
2011 GP2 Round of Abu Dhabi (Non-Championship, Feature Race, 31 laps) Pos Driver Team Time / Gap 1. Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering 58:53.563 2. Luiz Razia Caterham AirAsia +6.911 3. Jolyon Palmer Barwa Addax +28.708 4. Marcus Ericsson iSport +29.812 5. Kevin Ceccon Scuderia Coloni +36.619 6. Tom Dillmann iSport +41.518 7. Antonio Felix da Costa Ocean Racing Tech. +42.496 8. James Calado Lotus-ART +45.669 9. Nathanaël Berthon Racing Engineering +51.345 10. Stefano Coletti Scuderia Coloni +1:02.481 FL. Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering 1:51.493
Sprint Race (Nov 13th)
James Calado stole a convincing Sprint Race victory in the non-championship event at Abu Dhabi and with it the Pirelli-GP3 prize of €15,000.
The Englishman led from the lights, but found pressure all the way from Antonio Felix da Costa and later Marcus Ericsson. Calado – who finished runner-up in this year’s GP3 Series – maintained a steady head throughout the twenty-six laps, beating Ericsson to the chequered flag by only 1.7 seconds.
Ericsson initially ran close to da Costa in the early stages, with Luiz Razia intently trailing the pair. Da Costa’s defence finally collapsed on the ninth lap, as Ericsson took advantage, while Razia continued to press. The more Razia pushed, the more the Portuguese driver made mistakes – the final of which would cost da Costa any possibility of points.
As Razia took advantage through the turn 11 / 12 chicane, da Costa drove off-track to keep 3rd place, garnering a drive through penalty in the process.
From here, it should have been an easy 3rd place for Razia, only for the Brazilian to drop the ball two tours later. On lap 11, Mihai Marinescu crashed at the exit of turn three, bringing out the yellow flags just as Razia set his fastest sector split, earning a drive through penalty for ignoring yellow flags.
Razia wasn’t the only driver punished – Julián Leal and Giacomo Ricci (twice), earning a drive through and a stop / go respectively for speeding through the danger point.
It gave Tom Dillmann an unchallenged 3rd place, just over five seconds ahead of the equally unchallenged Jolyon Palmer in 4th.
Esteban Gutierrez enjoyed a far more thrilling drive to 5th place. Having started 21st, the Mexican made a startling getaway to reach 14th by the sixth tour.
As the race aged, Gutierrez gained several spots through penalties and through on track manoeuvre, bringing the Lotus-ART driver into a six-way battle for 5th alongside Fabio Leimer, Alexander Rossi, Stefano Coletti, Kevin Ceccon and Dani Clos.
Entering the final lap, Leimer took Rossi in the first turn, only for Coletti to try and take both two corners later. The inevitable clash delayed Rossi and Ceccon, while also sending Coletti into the barriers, leaving enough of a gap for Gutierrez to jump to 6th behind Leimer.
Leimer, now with a sliced tyre, ran wide under the hotel allowing Gutierrez through for 5th, with Ceccon accepting 6th. Rossi recovered for a point-less 7th, just ahead of an opportunistic Razia with Clos and Leimer closing the top ten.
2011 GP2 Round of Abu Dhabi (Non-Championship, Sprint Race, 22 laps) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. James Calado Lotus-ART 41:26.194 2. Marcus Ericsson iSport +1.770 3. Tom Dillmann iSport +7.695 4. Joylon Palmer Barwa Addax +13.040 5. Esteban Gutierrez Lotus-ART +27.012 6. Kevin Ceccon Scuderia Coloni +28.025 7. Alexander Rossi Caterham AirAsia +29.909 8. Luiz Razia Caterham AirAsia +30.022 9. Dani Clos Rapax +30.139 10. Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering +30.570 FL. Luiz Razia Caterham AirAsia 1:51.551 2011 GP2 Series (Non-Championship Round) Drivers’ Championship Pos Driver Points 1. Fabio Leimer 13 2. Marcus Ericsson 10 3. Luiz Razia 9 4. Jolyon Palmer 9 5. James Calado 7* 6. Tom Dillmann 7 *James Calado wins Pirelli-GP3 prize of €15,000. Teams’ Championship Pos Team Points 1. iSport 17 2. Racing Engineering 13 3. Lotus-ART 9 4. Caterham AirAsia 9 5. Barwa Addax 9