“Van der Garde and Razia lead GP2 charge into Europe”

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TV Notes

Giedo van der Garde and Luiz Razia made the most of GP2’s first European adventure of 2012, with each taking a win respectively, yet it was still DAMS racer Davide Valsecchi who came out smiling thanks to some hard fought points.

While Valsecchi’s championship lead is by no means insurmountable, it is still a credible 25 points, with only Razia looking like a challenge now.
Meanwhile, James Calado took charge of a tight four-way battle for 3rd at the expense of Lotus teammate Esteban Gutierrez, after a couple of impressive drives, following the blip in tactical form that was Bahrain.
Here’s how it happened.


Feature Race (May 12th)
Giedo van der Garde took his first GP2 race win since Monza 2009 with a stellar drive at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya last Saturday, ending a winless streak of fifty-four races.
It would be a narrow victory – as he led James Calado (Lotus) and Coloni’s Stefano Coletti across the line, the trio were covered by only 3.8 seconds.

Van der Garde’s race was greatly helped by a storming start that saw him jump from 5th to 3rd, but it was pit strategy that connected the final series of dots. Stopping on lap 15, the Dutchman took only rear tyres, allowing the Caterham racer to jump into the lead ahead of poleman Calado* and Racing Engineering’s Fabio Leimer.

Calado would ensure the victory was no sure thing for van der Garde. Having stopped one lap earlier than the Caterham, Calado changed all four tyres, giving van der Garde an advantage.
With less than a second between them, Calado pressurised, but never truly looked like he would break his Dutch rival, ensuring the gap across the line at the end was only 0.878 seconds.

Admittedly, the Lotus also lost time avoiding Leimer in the pitlane. The Swiss racer launched out of his pitbox – unsafely it would later be deemed – garnering a drive through and handing 3rd spot to Coletti. Leimer, meanwhile, would drop down to 12th.

Like van der Garde, Coletti also made a great start, jumping from 8th to 4th. From there, Coletti held his Pirelli tyres in state, staying on track until lap 17. Solid pace in clear air brought him right into the battle for the lead, with Coletti spending much of the final few laps on Calado’s tail, although his tyres fell away in the final two tours.

Davide Valsecchi (DAMS) came home 4th after a lonely race. The Italian enjoyed a four-second advantage over Nathanael Berthon, who took three places at the start (to 7th), before picking off Max Chilton (Carlin) in the pits. Leimer’s penalty made that 5th for rejuvenated Berthon.
Chilton would also lose out to Coloni’s Fabio Onidi in the stops, although the Carlin man nearly grabbed 6th spot back at the line as the pair ended the race virtually together. Arden’s Luiz Razia also spent the late stages bearing down on them both, but hung in 8th to grab the Sprint Race pole.

A late charge from Jolyon Palmer (iSport) brought him up to 9th after a late pitstop. The Englishman was helped back up the order when Nigel Melker (ORT) received a drive through for pitlane speeding. Passes on Esteban Gutierrez (Lotus), Leimer, Felipe Nasr (DAMS), Johnny Cecotto Jr (Addax) offered up minor points.
Gutierrez closed the top ten thanks to a pass on Nasr with four laps to go – solid reward after a difficult practice** and qualifying.

There was still last lap action when Cecotto Jr – defending from Tom Dillmann, hit the Frenchman, spinning him around, while Julian Leal spun all by himself trying to avoid it.
Alas, it was a poor day for Stephane Richelmi, as the Trident racer – who lined-up on the second row – dropped ten places at the start, but continued to fall as the race progressed. He finished 21st, some 75 seconds behind van der Garde.

* {note 1}
Calado took his first GP2 pole position with stunning lap early on, earning two-tenths advantage over Leimer (2nd) and Richelmi (3rd) – both of whom improved towards the sessions end. Chilton headed the Carlin charge in 4th, van der Garde and Onidi make the third row their own, just ahead of Valsecchi (7th).
Both Dillmann and Trummer made things difficult for themselves with silly spins. They would do no better than 18th and 19th respectively.

** {note 2}
Josef Kral (Barwa Addax) set the quickest lap on his first session back. The Czech pilot headed Calado, Nasr and van der Garde by less than two tenths, while Dillmann closed out the top five, a quarter-of-a-second shy of the top.
The session was rife with smoking tyres and mis-shaped rubber, especially on Gutierrez’ Lotus, as the Mexican front-locked his way through the session. Gutierrez ended up a distant 18th.

2012 GP2 Round of Barcelona (Rd 4, Feature Race, 37 laps)
Pos  Driver               Team                    Time/Gap 
 1.  Giedo van der Garde  Caterham            1h00m22.966s 
 2.  James Calado         Lotus                   + 0.878s 
 3.  Stefano Coletti      Coloni                  + 3.811s 
 4.  Davide Valsecchi     DAMS                   + 11.859s 
 5.  Nathanael Berthon    Racing Engineering     + 15.795s 
 6.  Fabio Onidi          Coloni                 + 19.379s 
 7.  Max Chilton          Carlin                 + 19.768s 
 8.  Luiz Razia           Arden                  + 20.072s 
 9.  Jolyon Palmer        iSport                 + 27.624s 
10.  Esteban Gutierrez    Lotus                  + 36.653s 
11.  Felipe Nasr          DAMS                   + 45.264s 
12.  Fabio Leimer         Racing Engineering     + 46.534s 
13.  Marcus Ericsson      iSport                 + 47.087s 
14.  Nigel Melker         Ocean                  + 47.356s 
15.  Rodolfo Gonzalez     Caterham               + 53.555s 
16.  Rio Haryanto         Carlin               + 1m00.879s 
17.  Fabrizio Crestani    Lazarus              + 1m06.737s 
18.  Johnny Cecotto       Addax                + 1m11.199s 
19.  Victor Guerin        Ocean                + 1m11.397s 
20.  Josef Kral           Addax                + 1m14.871s 
21.  Stephane Richelmi    Trident              + 1m15.821s 
22.  Tom Dillmann         Rapax                + 1m20.031s 
23.  Simon Trummer        Arden                + 1m20.382s 
24.  Julian Leal          Trident              + 1m28.989s 
25.  Giancarlo Serenelli  Lazarus                  + 1 lap  
     Ricardo Teixeira     Rapax                     8 laps

Sprint Race (May 13th)
Arden’s Luiz Razia marked the one-third point of the GP2 season with his second victory of the year at a cool-er Circuit de Catalunya. The Brazilian finished the race just over five seconds clear of Nathanael Berthon, while title rival Davide Valsecchi completed the podium for DAMS.

Whatever grip had been laid down the previous day was well and truly washed off come Sunday morning thanks to overnight rain; yet Razia had little trouble in finding grip off the line.
The Arden man launched into the lead from pole, receiving some little help from Chilton, who dropped from the front row to 4th, but not before backing the pack up on the approach to turn one.

From 5th, Berthon stole 2nd following a great start and proceeded to hound Razia for much of the running. The opening 17 laps saw the gap flicker around the six-tenths mark, as Berthon could neither pass Razia, nor be shaken off by him.

Eventually, Razia pulled away in the latter stages – his tyres far healthier than Berthon’s – while the Frenchman fell toward Valsecchi. Come the chequered flag, Razia had extended the gap to 5.2 seconds – enough to guarantee a well deserved win.

Berthon just held Valsecchi at bay over the line, although an extra lap or two may well have denied the Racing Engineering pilot a podium altogether. With only six-tenths of an advantage over the quicker Valsecchi, Berthon was able to breathe a sigh of relief; especially as Lotus’ James Calado towered over them both.

Valsecchi jumped to 3rd at the start, but it was Calado who made a real impression, when he nabbed two spots off the line for 5th, before forcing passed Chilton on lap four, assuming 4th.
Calado drew toward Valsecchi, but despite his valiant efforts, Valsecchi was not to be tricked into losing a position, ensuring the Englishman remained of the podium. Calado had another reason to celebrate – the race marked his 55th consecutive race finish, leaving him 3rd in the points.

Once Calado had passed, Chilton would later successfully fend off a small trail of cars, led by race one winner Giedo van der Garde.
A relatively sluggish start for van der Garde saw the Dutch racer briefly mired behind Esteban Gutierrez; however that lasted only until lap four when the Caterham man made his move, with the Mexican temporarily falling to 9th spot behind Stefano Coletti and Felipe Nasr.
Led by van der Garde, the group chased after Chilton, but none had enough to thrust their way by the Carlin car, despite Chilton fading Pirelli’s.

Coletti (Coloni) and Nasr (DAMS) initially covered the tail end of the Chilton / van der Garde / Gutierrez battle, only to fade in the second half of the race, allowing Gutierrez back ahead of them.
Chilton, van der Garde and Gutierrez would eventually take 5th, 6th and 7th respectively (covered by only 1.7 seconds), while Nasr and Coletti dropped off the pace badly. By lap 14, Coletti would grab the final points spot away from Nasr, with a courageous move around the outside of turn one.

Fabrizio Crestani drove an excellent race to 10th, after he started 17th in his Venezuela GP Lazarus machine. Crestani’s teammate – Giancarlo Serenelli was less graceful. The 30-year-old stalled on the grid, but started from the pitlane, only to spin off by himself four laps in.

It was a dire day for iSport. Jolyon Palmer’s entry suffered an electrical failure close to the end of the parade lap, resulting in an aborted start, while teammate Marcus Ericsson garnered a drive through penalty for ignoring yellow flags when in 11th place – the Swede finished 22nd.
Ericsson’s day was not helped when he was hit by a clumsy Fabio Onidi at the mid-point of the race.

2012 GP2 Round of Barcelona (Rd 4, Sprint Race, 25 laps)
Pos  Driver               Team                  Time/Gap 
 1.  Luiz Razia           Arden               40m08.411s 
 2.  Nathanael Berthon    Racing Engineering    + 5.256s 
 3.  Davide Valsecchi     DAMS                  + 5.897s 
 4.  James Calado         Lotus                 + 6.575s 
 5.  Max Chilton          Carlin               + 13.117s 
 6.  Giedo van der Garde  Caterham             + 14.362s 
 7.  Esteban Gutierrez    Lotus                + 14.874s 
 8.  Stefano Coletti      Coloni               + 19.223s 
 9.  Felipe Nasr          DAMS                 + 19.703s 
10.  Fabrizio Crestani    Lazarus              + 21.570s 
11.  Fabio Leimer         Racing Engineering   + 22.852s
12.  Tom Dillmann         Rapax                + 23.312s 
13.  Johnny Cecotto       Addax                + 30.155s 
14.  Rodolfo Gonzalez     Caterham             + 30.601s 
15.  Rio Haryanto         Carlin               + 31.281s 
16.  Josef Kral           Addax                + 31.834s 
17.  Julian Leal          Trident              + 32.817s 
18.  Fabio Onidi          Coloni               + 34.371s 
19.  Stephane Richelmi    Trident              + 34.818s 
20.  Simon Trummer        Arden                + 35.426s 
21.  Victor Guerin        Ocean                + 38.977s 
22.  Marcus Ericsson      iSport               + 39.878s 
23.  Ricardo Teixeira     Rapax                + 41.979s 
24.  Nigel Melker         Ocean                + 48.441s 
     Giancarlo Serenelli  Lazarus                 3 laps
     Jolyon Palmer        iSport                  0 laps
2012 GP2 Drivers' Championship (Rd 4)
Pos Driver Points
 1. Davide Valsecchi     129
 2. Luiz Razia           104
 3. James Calado          69
 4. Giedo van der Garde   60
 5. Esteban Gutierrez     59
 6. Max Chilton           57
 7. Fabio Leimer          41
 8. Felipe Nasr           28
 9. Tom Dillmann          27
10. Stefano Coletti       26

2012 GP2 Teams' Championship (Rd 4)
Pos Team Points
 1. DAMS                 157
 2. Lotus                128
 3. Arden International  105
 4. Carlin                73
 5. Racing Engineering    64

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