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“Valsecchi sets the standard in opening GP2 Bahrain meeting“

April 27, 2012

TV Notes

Davide Valsecchi claimed two race wins, a pole position and a fastest lap at the second round of the 2012 GP2 Series in Bahrain.

The DAMS pilot proved to be imperious throughout the weekend, showcasing his ability to led from the front during the Saturday afternoon Feature, while also cutting through the field in the Sprint Race.

Feature Race
The Feature Race performance was startling, as the Italian cleared off and into the distance. Runner-up Luiz Razia and 3rd place man Esteban Gutierrez could only imagine that feeling.

From pole (set early during the qualifying session*), Valsecchi made it appear almost relaxed, while Gutierrez (Lotus), Johnny Cecotto (Barwa Addax), Felipe Nasr (DAMS) and Razia (Arden) battled hard to be Valsecchi’s bridesmaid.
Lingering not far behind were another trio; Fabio Leimer (Racing Engineering), Max Chilton (Carlin) and James Calado (Lotus).

While Valsecchi stretched his lead, the fight for 2nd rose in intensity – at one point, the pack battling over the runner-up position grew to nine cars.
Two entries fell out of that battle on the 16th lap. Amidst a tight battle with Razia, Nasr was taken out by Cecotto thanks to a mindless lunge by the latter at turn one, serving only to turn both into retirement, while also bringing out the safety car. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Nasr copped a grid penalty for the Sprint Race.
Razia had moments earlier been run clean off the track by Cecotto, but emerged unscathed, if somewhat dustier.

By then Valsecchi had garnered a 12.8 second lead over Gutierrez; however Calado would soon benefit from an inspired pit strategy.
Having spent much of the early laps running at the rear of the battle for 2nd spot, Calado pitted on lap 9. On fresh tyres, Calado’s next few laps were key, as he skipped passed opponents during the stops – his extra laps on newer tyres proving far quicker than the ageing Pirelli’s still worn by many in the field.

Calado’s price? His late race tyre degradation would be rather severe. Valsecchi, meanwhile, disappeared once again, building a 7.7 second gap as he took the chequered flag for the win and twenty-five points – and an extra two for the fastest lap.

Razia’s timing would be inch perfect. A quick stop on lap 12 helped the Brazilian jumped to 4th ahead of Gutierrez and Nasr, while not far behind Calado and Chilton.

The Arden man received a little help from Racing Engineering’s Nathanael Berthon four tours later.
Staying out on flagging Pirelli’s, Berthon** – running a very temporary 2nd – cluttered the pack, allowing Razia to dive by Chilton as they began lap 16; however the Brazilian had to wait until after the safety car period to tackle Calado.
It took a little longer than expected. Calado – his tyres finally falling away – defended vigorously from Razia, despite the Brazilian’s pressure; however the Englishman would finally crack toward the end of 24 tours.

Now in a constant sliding motion through corners, the Lotus man lost tyre grip in the final turn as the friction ebbed away – faced with an opening door, Razia took 2nd, leaving Calado at the mercy of the train just behind.
They included Gutierrez and Chilton, both of whom swept passed Calado, both of who swept passed the Englishman with ease on lap 28, solidifying 3rd, 4th and 5th in the process.

Tom Dillmann earned a stellar 6th place thanks to a hard grafted drive from 13th on the grid, following a disastrous opening day***. The Frenchman struggled for grip early on, but – like Calado – pitted before a dozen laps, before filtering into clear air.
Several fast laps brought the Rapax racer into the points fold, although the safety car helped. As the race restarted, Dillmann founds himself in 8th, but made that 7th with a move on Leimer on lap 22.
It was a difficult day for Leimer, who started 4th, only to fall to 6th off the line. A slow stop on lap 15 lost the Swiss precious time, before succumbing to Dillmann’s intentions later on.

Further back, Coloni’s Fabio Onidi notched a credible 8th ahead of Rio Haryanto (Carlin, 9th), while substitute driver Brendon Hartley**** rounded out the top ten, despite starting last. The Kiwi soaked up pressure from Stephane Richelmi, Julian Leal< Marcus Ericsson and Fabio Crestani in the final few tours, engineering the final points place as the end drew close.

* {note 1}
Dillmann initially set the poletime – a credible effort considering his lack of Friday running; however the Frenchman would be bettered moments later by Gutierrez.
Valsecchi followed this by beating Dillmann’s time and then pipping Gutierrez to pole the next lap around. Nasr jumped to 3rd late on, just pipping Leimer, Cecotto and Ericsson initially assumed the third row ahead of Richelmi, a disappointed Calado, Razia and Chilton.
Carrying ten-place penalty from the Malaysian round dropped Ericsson to 16th, thereby promoting Haryanto into the top ten. Dillmann eventually fell to the seventh row, as others improved.
Hartley was penalised for causing an accident with Van der Garde and Trummer, dropping him to last.

** {note 2}
Questions must be asked regarding Berthon’s frightening sweep across track to the pitlane for his tyre stop. Despite being boxed in on the outside of start / finish by a trio of cars, the Frenchman charged diagonally across track to peel into the pit lane.
While there was no accident on this occasion, Razia cam very close to being sideswiped as the group approached the grid markings. It was a frankly ridiculous move, reminiscent of the Patrese / Berger crash from the 1992 Portuguese Grad Prix.

** {note 3}
The story was quite similar during Free Practice. Valsecchi topped the times, with a best some six-tenths quicker than Chilton, although Cecotto, Nasr, Razia and Leimer made it a close run thing.
Unfortunately for Dillmann, his Rapax machine gave up with mechanical issue on his second flying lap, handicapping the Frenchman for the remainder of the weekend.

*** {note 4}
The second weekend of the season saw the first driver substitutions of the season, as Dani Clos replaced Josef Kral at Barwa Addax and Brendon Hartley sat in for Jon Lancaster at Ocean Racing Technology.
It is believed Lancaster’s absence may be down to financial concerns; however little has been revealed as to why Kral did not appear. Both Clos and Hartley will continue come the third round at the this weekend’s repeat visit to Bahrain
.

2012 GP2 Round of Bahrain (Rd 2, Feature Race, 32 laps)
Pos  Driver               Team                  Time/Gap
 1.  Davide Valsecchi     DAMS                59m31.115s
 2.  Luiz Razia           Arden                 + 7.770s
 3.  Esteban Gutierrez    Lotus                + 13.528s
 4.  Max Chilton          Carlin               + 14.088s
 5.  James Calado         Lotus                + 16.278s
 6.  Tom Dillmann         Rapax                + 16.559s
 7.  Fabio Leimer         Racing Engineering   + 17.243s
 8.  Fabio Onidi          Coloni               + 28.109s
 9.  Rio Haryanto         Carlin               + 32.846s
10.  Brendon Hartley      Ocean                + 36.093s
11.  Stephane Richelmi    Trident              + 37.377s
12.  Julian Leal          Trident              + 38.677s
13.  Marcus Ericsson      iSport               + 40.627s
14.  Fabrizio Crestani    Lazarus              + 41.009s
15.  Rodolfo Gonzalez     Caterham             + 44.028s
16.  Simon Trummer        Arden                + 44.552s
17.  Ricardo Teixeira     Rapax                + 47.776s
18.  Giancarlo Serenelli  Lazarus              + 52.464s
Retirements:
     Dani Clos            Addax                  30 laps
     Nigel Melker         Ocean                  30 laps
     Nathanael Berthon    Racing Engineering     29 laps
     Johnny Cecotto       Addax                  16 laps
     Felipe Nasr          DAMS                   16 laps
     Giedo van der Garde  Caterham               16 laps
     Stefano Coletti      Coloni                  2 laps
     Jolyon Palmer        iSport                  0 laps

Sprint Race
Valsecchi made it two for two when he battled through to win Sunday’s Sprint Race, although the Italian required help from the stewards and a hamstrung Lotus to do.

The DAMS pilot took the lead – and the win – from Gutierrez on the final lap, as the Mexican’s tyres fell away late on, although it could realistically have been a pass for 2nd place.

While Valsecchi took the spoils, Leimer lamented a lost opportunity. Having forced his way into the lead on the sixth lap with a move on Calado, Leimer headed the field with confidence, until the race stewards deemed the Racing Engineering man had travelled far too quickly through a yellow flag zone.
The subsequent drive through penalty dropped Leimer out of the lead battle and down into a battle for 12th place.

Running 5th at the time, Valsecchi stepped up with moves on Chilton and Calado, before charging toward the rear of Gutierrez. What was a five second gap with five laps to go, was quickly whittled away until the pair were line astern with only two tours remaining.
By the time the Italian had grabbed the lead, there was little life left in Gutierrez’ fragile Pirelli’s, ensuring Valsecchi of a narrow, but well earned victory.

For Gutierrez, it was disappointing, but remained a minor success. The Lotus man started 6th, yet was already 3rd by the opening corner, before assuming 2nd from Leimer a lap later.
With both Lotuses’ up front come lap 5, the fight for the lead became a nervous one, with Calado repeatedly outbraking himself as he held Gutierrez at bay – indeed Calado even managed to swipe a front wing endplate section of his teammate’s machine*****.

As Calado slid tentatively around turns 3 and 4, Gutierrez ran wind in avoidance; allowing Leimer through on the Mexican – for Leimer, Calado was easy meat.
Gutierrez resumed his attack on lap 6; this time slicing by Calado into turn four and 2nd place. Leimer’s penalty gave Gutierrez a relatively brief lead, only for it to be stolen on the final tour…

Meanwhile Calado fell some ten seconds behind the leading pair; after he destroyed his Pirelli’s defending against Gutierrez.

Razia grabbed 4th from an ailing Chilton late on, although the latter certainly made it difficult for the former championship leader.
While Valsecchi’s drive was certainly outstanding, his teammate – Nasr – matched it for sheer audacity. Starting last, the Brazilian grabbed five places on the opening lap, soon moving to 14th place after nine laps.
Nasr continued to progress, but hit the jackpot as Onidi, Ericsson, Jolyon Palmer, Giedo van der Garde, Simon Trummer, Dani Clos fell over each other for the lower points positions.
As they held and blocked each other for lap after lap, Nasr drifted into play, before taking the group one by one over the last six tours to grab a stunning 6th spot.

Palmer eventually came 7th, while the battle for 8th fell away. It was eventually won by Trummer, who beat a group containing van der Garde, Dillmann, Clos and Leimer over the line only 2.4 seconds.

***** {note 5}
Some of the methods of defence utilised by James Calado left a lot to be desired. In a number of shots while holding Gutierrez, Leimer or Valsecchi at bay, the Englishman swung across the circuit vigorously, before sweeping back onto the racing line.
Not impressed, not impressive at all.

2012 GP2 Round of Bahrain (Rd 2, Sprint Race, 22 laps)
Pos  Driver               Team                   Time/Gap
 1.  Davide Valsecchi     DAMS                 39m22.363s
 2.  Esteban Gutierrez    Lotus                  + 0.399s
 3.  James Calado         Lotus                 + 10.617s
 4.  Luiz Razia           Arden                 + 12.463s
 5.  Max Chilton          Carlin                + 13.573s
 6.  Felipe Nasr          DAMS                  + 15.414s
 7.  Jolyon Palmer        iSport                + 22.950s
 8.  Simon Trummer        Arden                 + 30.425s
 9.  Giedo van der Garde  Caterham              + 31.976s
10.  Tom Dillmann         Rapax                 + 32.545s
11.  Dani Clos            Addax                 + 32.632s
12.  Fabio Leimer         Racing Engineering    + 32.856s
13.  Ricardo Teixeira     Rapax                 + 36.275s
14.  Fabio Onidi          Coloni                + 36.477s
15.  Rio Haryanto         Carlin                + 39.988s
16.  Marcus Ericsson      iSport                + 40.386s
17.  Julian Leal          Trident               + 47.410s
18.  Nigel Melker         Ocean                 + 56.196s
19.  Fabrizio Crestani    Lazarus               + 59.488s
20.  Rodolfo Gonzalez     Caterham            + 1m52.968s
21.  Giancarlo Serenelli  Lazarus             + 1m53.295s
22.  Johnny Cecotto       Addax                   + 1 lap
23.  Stefano Coletti      Coloni                 + 2 laps
Retirements:
     Nathanael Berthon    Racing Engineering      15 laps
     Brendon Hartley      Ocean                    2 laps
     Stephane Richelmi    Trident                  0 laps
Pos Driver Points
 1. Davide Valsecchi     70
 2. Luiz Razia           57
 3. Esteban Gutierrez    45
 4. James Calado         39
 5. Max Chilton          35
 6. Felipe Nasr          22
 7. Fabio Leimer         22
 8. Giedo van der Garde  12
 9. Stefano Coletti      10
10. Tom Dillmann          8
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