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“Valsecchi does the job again in Bahrain”

May 5, 2012

TV Notes

When the GP2 Series stayed in Bahrain for an extra round last weekend, one could be forgiven for thinking there might be a repeat of the original meeting.

There was – nearly. Once again, DAMS pilot Davide Valsecchi took a crucial Feature Race win, although a mere podium was all he could garner from the Sprint Race.

Six races in and only once has Valsecchi not finished on the podium (he retired during the Malaysian Sprint Race), it seems the field will need to work very hard to stop the chirpy Italian from assuming the GP2 title.

Next, it’s Europe and Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya…

Feature Race (April 27th)
DAMS’ Davide Valsecchi claimed his third consecutive GP2 race victory at Bahrain last week from another front row start.

The Italian initially chased polesitter Giedo van der Garde for the opening nine tours, before sweeping passed the Caterham racer as his Pirelli tyres fell away.

It had looked good for van der Garde in the opening tours. After just a single circulation, the Dutch pilot had claimed 1.5 second lead over Valsecchi, but the DAMS racer soon pegged that gap, reeling his rival in as the race ticked over.

As the one-third mark approached, the pair headed into turn one almost together – literally, thanks to some overly aggressive moves by van der Garde – with opposing wheels coming dangerously close to touching, prompting Valsecchi to hold his bite. But not for long.

Rattled and off-balance, van der Garde proved less swift exiting turn two, allowing Valsecchi through the head the field. The Italian lost the lead briefly to Fabio Onidi when he stopped for a new set of Pirelli’s; however the gripless Onidi fell away easily the longer he stayed on track.
For Valsecchi, it was a case of job done and full points – again – in the bag, as he extended the eventual winning margin to 7.7 seconds.

The day would disintegrate further for van der Garde when Fabio Leimer sailed through into 2nd place on lap ten.
Once again, in a vigorous defence of position, van der Garde dropped off line, while his tyres screamed “enough”, allowing Leimer into the runner-up spot. The Swiss pilot then held Valsecchi in his sights briefly, but the DAMS racer proved too strong.

Van der Garde did hold onto 3rd, but it took some tough work. Pitting on lap 11, the Dutchman was jumped at the stops by a quick Marcus Ericsson, but only briefly – come turn nine, van der Garde pulled passed an Ericsson still finding grip on cold tyres.

Once passed, Ericsson was in trouble. Fighting hard to keep Luiz Razia (Arden) and Max Chilton (Carlin) at bay, the Swede tore through his Pirelli’s, eventually losing out to both on lap 25, while a charging Rio Haryanto did the same three laps from the end to claim 6th
As Ericsson’s pace continued to deteriorate, Felipe Nasr finished Ericsson off with a move on the penultimate tour, grabbing 7th only to fall foul of a post-race penalty for ignoring waved yellow flags – an error that cost him an extra 20 seconds in the classifications.
Ericsson held just enough of an advantage over Tom Dillmann to assume 7th on paper – three seconds up on Johnny Cecotto Jr and Esteban Gutierrez** who took 9th and 10th respectively.

* {note 1}
Nasr was not alone in being penalised. Rodolfo Gonzalez was also penalised 20 seconds, dropping him to 18th, while Fabrizio Crestani – who retired on lap 24 – was demoted to the back of the grid for the Sprint Race.

** {note 2}
In one of the more bizarre tactics of the season, Lotus decided not to run in Free Practice, in an attempt to save tyres. It backfired when their drivers – Gutierrez and James Calado – had no set-up for qualifying or the race.
Chilton took the top spot in practice ahead of Valsecchi and Razia, while teammate Haryanto eventually ended the session 4th after spending much of the practice 2nd to Chilton.

2012 GP2 Round of Bahrain (Rd 3, Feature Race, 32 laps)
Pos  Driver               Team                   Time/Gap 
 1.  Davide Valsecchi     DAMS                 57m35.088s 
 2.  Fabio Leimer         Racing Engineering     + 7.711s 
 3.  Giedo van der Garde  Caterham              + 14.824s
 4.  Luiz Razia           Arden                 + 24.142s 
 5.  Max Chilton          Carlin                + 24.705s 
 6.  Rio Haryanto         Carlin                + 40.965s 
 7.  Marcus Ericsson      iSport                + 50.645s 
 8.  Tom Dillmann         Rapax                 + 52.522s 
 9.  Johnny Cecotto       Addax                 + 55.578s 
10.  Esteban Gutierrez    Lotus                 + 56.211s 
11.  Felipe Nasr          DAMS                  + 45.772s* 
12.  Nathanael Berthon    Racing Engineering  + 1m06.906s 
13.  Brendon Hartley      Ocean               + 1m07.254s 
14.  Simon Trummer        Arden               + 1m15.486s 
15.  Julian Leal          Trident             + 1m16.363s 
16.  James Calado         Lotus               + 1m20.506s 
17.  Stephane Richelmi    Trident             + 1m21.441s 
18.  Rodolfo Gonzalez     Caterham            + 1m09.206s* 
19.  Nigel Melker         Ocean               + 1m29.955s 
20.  Fabio Onidi          Coloni              + 1m47.146s 
21.  Stefano Coletti      Coloni                  + 1 lap 
22.  Giancarlo Serenelli  Lazarus                 + 1 lap 
23.  Ricardo Teixeira     Rapax                   + 1 lap
Retirements:
     Jolyon Palmer        iSport                  30 laps
     Fabrizio Crestani    Lazarus                 24 laps* 
     Dani Clos            Addax                    8 laps
*20 second / grid position post-race penalties for ignoring waved yellow flags.

Sprint Race (April 28th)
Tom Dillmann assumed his first GP2 victory by the narrowest of margins over Luiz Razia in an ultra tense Sprint Race.

The Frenchman edged a victory by less than two-tenths after a late charge from the Brazilian. Davide Valsecchi was four seconds behind in the final podium position.

Dillmann enjoyed a sold start, pulling clear away in the opening tours, while Razia fought for 2nd spot with Marcus Ericsson and Rio Haryanto.
The infighting was enough to give Dillmann a crucial 5.7 second lead come the halfway point, where Razia – now long since clear of the duelling Ericsson and Haryanto – first held the gap, before closing in with six tours remaining.

With three laps remaining, Razia was within one second of Dillmann, yet despite mounting pressure from behind; the 23-year-old racer never lost the position, giving Rapax their first GP2 win since Barcelona last year.
For Arden racer Razia, 2nd was a reasonable result after starting 5th; however it did little to reel in title rival Valsecchi.

Indeed, Valsecchi may not have won on this occasion, but he once again displayed his ability to save tyres when others don’t and climb up the order as a result. Starting 8th, the Italian emerged from the first corner in 5th, only to lose out to the frantic Esteban Gutierrez five tours later, before surging ahead of Ericsson and Haryanto soon afterward.
Valsecchi would find the squabbling pair far more difficult to deal with, especially as Ericsson began to struggle against disintegrating rubber. A divebomb on the Swede on lap nine was enough for 5th, while Haryanto would be squeezed by Valsecchi four laps later for 4th.

Having pushed his Pirelli’s too hard, Gutierrez would lose out to Valsecchi on lap 18, as grip fell away from the Lotus, although the Mexican had done just enough to solidify a top four. Admittedly, Gutierrez had been lucky – a noisy start saw the Lotus racer plough unabated into turn one, tapping Caterham pilot Giedo van der Garde into a spin. The stewards would decline to offer up a penalty.

Felipe Nasr also had Haryanto and Ericsson for 5th come the end, gaining some return following a frustrating weekend, although Haryanto would be reasonably disappointed to lose out to the Brazilian on the final lap.
Ericsson had nothing left at the flag, although the iSport racer was not helped when a piece of loose debris damaged his front wing on the fourth lap. He would come home 7th, only three seconds up on the slow starting Fabio Leimer.

2012 GP2 Round of Bahrain (Rd 3, Sprint Race, 23 laps)
Pos  Driver               Team                   Time/Gap 
 1.  Tom Dillmann         Rapax                41m16.276s 
 2.  Luiz Razia           Arden                  + 0.198s 
 3.  Davide Valsecchi     DAMS                   + 3.958s 
 4.  Esteban Gutierrez    Lotus                 + 16.488s 
 5.  Felipe Nasr          DAMS                  + 18.602s 
 6.  Rio Haryanto         Carlin                + 20.425s 
 7.  Marcus Ericsson      iSport                + 26.294s 
 8.  Fabio Leimer         Racing Engineering    + 29.605s 
 9.  Fabio Onidi          Coloni                + 33.490s 
10.  Nathanael Berthon    Racing Engineering    + 34.078s 
11.  Nigel Melker         Ocean                 + 43.463s 
12.  James Calado         Lotus                 + 44.371s 
13.  Max Chilton          Carlin                + 46.743s 
14.  Julian Leal          Trident               + 47.439s 
15.  Rodolfo Gonzalez     Caterham              + 54.991s 
16.  Brendon Hartley      Ocean                 + 59.764s 
17.  Stephane Richelmi    Trident             + 1m00.655s 
18.  Stefano Coletti      Coloni              + 1m02.090s 
19.  Giedo van der Garde  Caterham            + 1m02.632s 
20.  Ricardo Teixeira     Rapax               + 1m07.468s 
21.  Giancarlo Serenelli  Lazarus             + 1m08.293s 
22.  Jolyon Palmer        iSport              + 1m18.688s 
23.  Fabrizio Crestani    Lazarus             + 1m26.049s 
Retirements:
     Simon Trummer        Arden                   21 laps
     Dani Clos            Addax                   19 laps
     Johnny Cecotto       Addax                    0 laps
2012 GP2 Series Points Standings (Rd 3)
Drivers’ Championship
Pos Driver Points
1. Davide Valsecchi 107
2. Luiz Razia 83
3. Esteban Gutierrez 54
4. Max Chilton 45
5. Fabio Leimer 41
6. James Calado 39
7. Giedo van der Garde 31
8. Felipe Nasr 28
9. Tom Dillmann 27
10. Rio Haryanto 16

Teams’ Championship
Pos Team Points
1. DAMS 135
2. Lotus GP 93
3. Arden International 84
4. Carlin 61
5. Racing Engineering 42
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