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Razia and Calado take opening GP2 spoils in Malaysia

April 1, 2012

© Creative Commons / Will Pittenger

TV Notes

The 2012 GP2 (Main) Series ventured to Malaysia for the first time last weekend, with series veteran Luiz Razia and rookie James Calado taking impressive wins.

Feature Race
Arden’s Luiz Razia grabbed his first GP2 race victory since September 2009 to lead the GP2 Series after the opening round in Sepang, Malaysia.

The Brazilian surged ahead of poleman Davide Valsecchi into the first corner, while his Italian rival bogged down off the line.

From there, Razia was rarely challenged and with clean air ahead, the Arden racer gradually pulled away from pack, until he stopped for a new set of rear tyres on lap 14.
His gap up front extended to 9.6 seconds at one point, although Razia allowed that to shrink slightly in the final tours as victory became certain.

A sluggish getaway confined Valsecchi’s* race to one of damage limitation. As his DAMS machine stuttered, Valsecchi fell to 4th behind Fabio Leimer (Racing Engineering) and Stefano Coletti (Coloni).
Valsecchi applied plenty of pressure on Coletti, who eventually made an error in turn eight, giving the DAMS pilot 3rd.
It would only take a further eight corners for the DAMS man to grab 2nd, when Leimer – now struggling on aging tyres – succumbed to Valsecchi’s pressure, as the Italian forced his away around the outside through turn one.

Max Chilton filled out the final podium spot for Carlin. The Briton fell to 5th after a poor start, but he would soon climb to 4th with a lap nine pass on the pitting Leimer. Coletti also stopped, losing precious time as he changed all four tyres, while Chilton – pitting two laps later, changed just the rears, gaining 3rd in the process.
Despite being on aging front tyres, Chilton held Leimer at bay for the duration, with the pair rarely split by more than a second.

Coletti – 5th after the stops – was initially part of the battle for 3rd, but he disappeared from sight, as he fought to keep Felipe Nasr (DAMS) at bay.
The impressive Nasr sailed by Giedo van der Garde (Caterham) and Johnny Cecotto Jr (Addax) early on, before taking James Calado (Lotus) during the pitstops.

It is possible that Nasr may have had Coletti in the final laps, had he not been under the watchful gaze of Esteban Gutierrez**. Following a poor qualifying (15th on the grid), Gutierrez rose to 9th by the end of the opening lap, before a move on Cecotto Jr made that 8th on lap three.
Luck stayed with the Mexican when nearly crashed in the pitlane by entering the narrow lane far too quickly; however he managed to hold his position. Forcing Calado into a mistake six laps from the end gave him 7th, but Gutierrez could not do the same to Nasr.

Calado would come 8th, taking pole position for the Sprint Race, after holding off the recovering van der Garde during the final five tours, until he too fell backwards with worn Pirelli’s.
Fabrizio Crestani gave Venezuela GP Lazarus their first GP2 points in their debut event, while fighting hard to keep Nathanael Berthon at bay.

Both Stephane Richelmi (Trident) and Simon Trummer (Arden) earned 20-second post-race penalties for collisions, while Caterham’s Rodolfo Gonzalez (“Future World Champion™”) was unpenalised, despite driving like the world’s most expensive pinball machine until his lap 13 retirement.
Cecotto Jr retired a few corners after his stop when his untightened right rear wheel fell off and Jon Lancaster pulled after one lap with a damaged car.
Jolyon Palmer (iSport) and Tom Dillmann (Rapax) stalled on the dummy grid, forcing a second parade lap.

* {note 1}
DAMS’ Davide Valsecchi nabbed the first pole of the GP2 season with an early run on the hard Pirelli tyres. The Italian’s quick lap of 1:45.494 was enough to keep ahead of Luiz Razia (2nd), Max Chilton (3rd), Stefano Coletti (4th) and Fabio Leimer (5th), although the quintet would be covered by less than a tenth.
It may well have been pole for both Razia or Leimer had it not been for time dropped in the final corner. Razia lost precious momentum when he was blocked slightly by Fabrizio Crestani in the tight turn fifteen hairpin, while Leimer simply overshot the corner, as he was about to finish his hot lap.
James Calado, Jolyon Palmer and Giedo van der Garde filled out the next three spots on the grid, just ahead of Coloni’s Fabio Onidi. Unfortunately for Onidi, the Italian was penalised three-places for blocking “Future World Champion™” Rodolfo Gonzalez, thereby promoting Felipe Nasr and Johnny Cecotto Jr to 9th and 10th respectively.

** {note 2}
The weekend had started poorly for Esteban Gutierrez. The Lotus racer ran only ten minutes of free practice on Friday morning, when he was hit by an over ambitious Cecotto Jr on the exit of turn nine, damaging Gutierrez’ front right beyond repair.
Having lost precious set-up time, Gutierrez struggled in qualifying, ensuring the Mexican could only manage a best of 15th place.
Cecotto Jr would rubber stamp his appearance in the practice session as the clock hit zero, by spinning limply on the exit of turn fourteen, bringing out waved yellow flags.

2012 GP2 Round of Malaysia (Rd 1 Feature Race, 30 laps, March 24th) 
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 
 1.  Luiz Razia           Arden                56m00.250s 
 2.  Davide Valsecchi     DAMS                   + 7.817s 
 3.  Max Chilton          Carlin                + 27.366s 
 4.  Fabio Leimer         Racing Engineering    + 28.291s 
 5.  Stefano Coletti      Coloni                + 32.217s 
 6.  Felipe Nasr          DAMS                  + 33.378s 
 7.  Esteban Gutierrez    Lotus                 + 33.679s 
 8.  James Calado         Lotus                 + 36.449s 
 9.  Giedo van der Garde  Caterham              + 41.519s 
10.  Fabrizio Crestani    Lazarus               + 43.240s 
11.  Nathanael Berthon    Racing Engineering    + 43.720s 
12.  Rio Haryanto         Carlin                + 53.303s 
13.  Marcus Ericsson      iSport              + 1m01.683s 
14.  Josef Kral           Addax               + 1m02.683s 
15.  Julian Leal          Trident             + 1m09.180s 
16.  Nigel Melker         Ocean               + 1m10.399s 
17.  Jolyon Palmer        iSport              + 1m12.861s 
18.  Tom Dillmann         Rapax               + 1m27.810s 
19. Stephane Richelmi Trident + 1m35.206s*
20.  Fabio Onidi          Coloni              + 1m39.125s 
21.  Ricardo Teixeira     Rapax               + 1m48.025s 
22.  Giancarlo Serenelli  Lazarus                 + 1 lap 
23. Simon Trummer Arden + 1 lap* 
Did not finish:   
     Rodolfo Gonzalez     Caterham                13 laps      
     Johnny Cecotto Jr    Addax                    7 laps      
     Jon Lancaster        Ocean                     1 lap 
*20-seconds post-race penalty for collisions
^Notes compiled from live updates and team releases.

Sprint Race
James Calado secured his second GP2 victory for Lotus GP on Sunday, but his first points scoring victory***.

The Englishman led all twenty-two laps, although it was far from a sure thing, with Calado holding teammate Esteban Gutierrez and DAMS rookie Felipe Nasr at bay for the duration.

Realistically, the race was won off the line – Calado got away well from the start, but Gutierrez was better, as he edged ahead toward turn one.
Calado grabbed the inside into the slow first turn, then the outside of turn two, before folding back to the inside – and an assured lead – as turn three opened out.

From there, the gap gradually widened, eventually holding steady at just under a second in the opening 15 tours. As Gutierrez became preoccupied with a threat from Nasr, Calado pulled slightly further away to win an important and tense battle.

For the most part, Nasr ran behind the leading pair, before initiating an attack on Gutierrez in the final half-dozen laps. Driving like a veteran, the Brazilian held his tyres well, but there simply wasn’t enough left to overturn Gutierrez’ slight advantage.

Like the Calado / Gutierrez, Nasr enjoyed a winding battle in the opening turns with Stefano Coletti (Coloni); however Coletti seeing a gap, pressed to hard into the seventh turn of the race, dropping to 6th.

Giedo van der Garde took 4th for Caterham. The Dutch pilot enjoyed a good start (he jumped five places to the top four), initially holding the aggressive Max Chilton (Carlin) and Fabrizio Crestani (Venezuela GP Lazarus) at bay.
As the trio entered the second lap, Crestani tried a wild lunge into turn one, clouting van der Garde in the process – Crestani damaged his front wing and received a drive through penalty for his woes. Attempting to avoid the melee, Chilton ran wide, allowing Fabio Leimer and several others through.

Leimer could not hold 5th though – that prize went to Luiz Razia. The Brazilian held off the charging Davide Valsecchi in the opening half of the race, with the Italian finally making his move on lap 14.
A dive down the inside of Razia in turn four saw Valsecchi off track, but returning on the approach to turn five. Seeing an opening, iSport’s Marcus Ericsson attempted a move, only to clip Valsecchi’s left rear, prompting the Italian into a violent barrel roll. Both emerged uninjured from their broken machines; however Ericsson was slapped with 10-place grid penalty for the next round – wherever that may take place.
Three laps later, Chilton tried the same manoeuvre on Razia and he too went off, dropping behind Nathanael Berthon, although the Englishman had the good manners not to damage himself.

Coletti held 6th for a time, but fell backwards as he lost out to Razia on lap 18 as his Pirelli’s faded.
Not content with a mere top-six, Razia took Leimer for 5th at the end of the penultimate lap, as the Swiss racer struggled on dead tyres. On the final tour, Razia pulled to within one-second of van der Garde, but not enough to take advantage.

Chilton retook Berthon for 7th on lap 19, as Coletti continued to drop backward, with the Italian giving up the ghost and retiring two laps from the end.
Josef Kral (Addax) and Rio Haryanto (Carlin) rounded out the top ten, with Rapax’s Tom Dillmann unlucky to miss out on 10th, following an impressive climb up the order from 18th.

After the race, the stewards gave the other Rapax driver, Ricardo Teixeira, a special €1,000 prize fine for going off at turn 15 and rejoining the circuit by driving the wrong down the access road, while facing racing traffic. Well done.

*** {note 3}
Although not a championship event in 2011, James Calado won the Abu Dhabi Sprint Race at the Yas Marina circuit last November, just ahead of Marcus Ericsson. Tom Dillmann – then driving for iSport – took third place, some seven seconds adrift of the top spot.

2012 GP2 Round of Malaysia (Rd 1 Sprint Race, 22 laps, March 25th) 
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 
 1.  James Calado         Lotus                41m08.048s 
 2.  Esteban Gutierrez    Lotus                  + 2.004s 
 3.  Felipe Nasr          DAMS                   + 3.440s 
 4.  Giedo van der Garde  Caterham              + 10.760s 
 5.  Luiz Razia           Arden                 + 11.430s 
 6.  Fabio Leimer         Racing Engineering    + 14.689s 
 7.  Max Chilton          Carlin                + 15.685s 
 8.  Nathanael Berthon    Racing Engineering    + 16.578s 
 9.  Josef Kral           Addax                 + 18.175s 
10.  Rio Haryanto         Carlin                + 24.033s 
11.  Tom Dillmann         Rapax                 + 24.086s 
12.  Jolyon Palmer        iSport                + 25.547s 
13.  Fabio Onidi          Coloni                + 32.206s 
14.  Nigel Melker         Ocean                 + 34.500s 
15.  Julian Leal          Trident               + 34.629s 
16.  Simon Trummer        Arden                 + 35.226s 
17.  Jon Lancaster        Ocean                 + 40.340s 
18.  Rodolfo Gonzalez     Caterham              + 44.700s 
19.  Stephane Richelmi    Trident               + 47.133s 
20.  Giancarlo Serenelli  Lazarus             + 1m10.466s 
21.  Fabrizio Crestani    Lazarus             + 1m21.035s 
22.  Johnny Cecotto Jr    Addax                   + 1 lap 
23.  Stefano Coletti      Coloni                 + 2 laps 
24.  Ricardo Teixeira     Rapax                  + 3 laps  
Did not finish:   
     Marcus Ericsson      iSport                  13 laps      
     Davide Valsecchi     DAMS                    13 laps
^Notes compiled from live updates and team releases.

Drivers Championship (Round 1):
 1. Luiz Razia           31 Points
 2. Davide Valsecchi     24
 3. James Calado         19
 4. Esteban Gutierrez    18
 5. Felipe Nasr          18
 6. Max Chilton          17
 7. Fabio Leimer         16
 8. Giedo van der Garde  10
 9. Stefano Coletti      10
10. Rio Haryanto          2

Teams' Championship (Round 1):
 1. DAMS                 42 Points
 2. Lotus                37
 3. Arden International  31
 4. Carlin               19
 5. Racing Engineering   17
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