Esteban Gutierrez and Luiz Razia proved that is just as important as guile during the sixth round of the GP2 Series at Valencia last weekend.
Both bolstered their championships with decisive late wins when fortune fell away from Calado – a victim of ill-timed safety cars and disintegrating tyres.
Whereas Gutierrez will welcome the boost to a slightly bruised confidence, Razia will take delight in reeling in series leader Davide Valsecchi.
Indeed Razia now only trails the Italian by a single point. But it’s not just Valsecchi – his rookie teammate Felipe Nasr has also began struggling in recent rounds, as the yellow machine fall back into the pack.
The alarm bells must surely now be ringing at DAMS.
Gutierrez assumed the Feature Race, when teammate Calado twice had his tyre strategy scuppered by the safety car.
Starting 5th*, the Mexican victor was a distant 3rd when the first stoppage occurred on lap 13. Rapax racer Tom Dillmann took damage to his rear wing on the opening lap – the fragile carbon fibre piece collapsing as the halfway mark approached.
The majority danced around the stricken object, but not all would be so fortunate – Rodolfo Gonzalez (in the midst of an “interesting” weekend**) smashed the remains of the wing to litter. Cue safety car number one.
By this stage, Calado – had a 15 second lead over Racing Engineering’s Fabio Leimer, only for that to be wiped away in an instant. Those who had not pitted already did so before the safety car caught them – except for Calado, now just a couple of car lengths up on Leimer, but with a stop still to do.
The lap 18 restart proved to be calamitous. Struggling with throttle problems, Felipe Nasr (DAMS) twice lost drive, with the latter stall crowding the field as they crossed the bridge.
Unsighted, Jolyon Palmer dived down the inside of Nasr while others negotiated the safer outside line, only for Palmer to spear Fabrizio Crestani (Venezuela Lazarus GP), pitching the Italian into a violent barrel roll.
Safety car number two. Thankfully Crestani climbed out with no injuries.
The next restart came on lap 22 – and this, too, was brief. Having still not pitted, Calado again led away, while Gutierrez clattered Leimer, allowing an opportunistic Razia into 2nd.
Gutierrez would retake Razia further on down the lap in a tough, but clean manner, while the quiet Marcus Ericsson breezed by Leimer and Razia in quick succession.
Something that could not be said for Gonzalez. Attempting a move on Giancarlo Serenelli, the Venezuelan simply punted the right rear of the Italian, punting Serenelli into the barrier and an unattainable position for the circuit cranes. Safety car number three.
Calado’s plan of making a gap before a tyre change was beginning to collapse; the Englishman was finally brought in on lap 24. Luck finally came Calado’s way; the safety car had not picked him up yet, allowing the Lotus racer to glide quickly to the pits – he would emerge in 10th in Valsecchi’s mirrors.
The disappearance of one Lotus gave the other the lead, as Gutierrez stepped up to the front. The Mexican only had three laps to run and he held Ericsson at bay with ease, while Razia and Leimer filled out 3rd and 4th respectively.
It is a solid result for Razia, who crucially jumped four spots to 7th off the line, before crucially skipping over van der Garde in the pits.
Rio Haryanto (Carlin, 5th) crossed the finish line marginally ahead of Nathanael Berthon (Racing Engineering), Max Chilton (Carlin, 7th) and Valsecchi (DAMS, 8th); however the latter was later demoted ten places for overtaking the safety car.
Johnny Cecotto initially took 9th, but he too received a post-race penalty for an unsafe release in the pits, dropping him to 19th. The dual penalties would eventually promote Calado to 8th and pole position for the Sprint Race.
Stefano Coletti, Simon Trummer and van der Garde would all cross the line together with van der Garde losing out on the final points place by a mere two-tenths.
2012 GP2 Round of Europe (Rd 6, Feature Race, 28 laps) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Esteban Gutierrez Lotus 1h00m31.895s 2. Marcus Ericsson iSport + 1.615s 3. Luiz Razia Arden + 6.064s 4. Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering + 6.403s 5. Rio Haryanto Carlin + 6.928s 6. Nathanael Berthon Racing Engineering + 7.605s 7. Max Chilton Carlin + 8.384s 8. James Calado Lotus + 11.099s 9. Stefano Coletti Coloni + 15.404s 10. Simon Trummer Arden + 15.782s 11. Giedo van der Garde Caterham + 15.962s 12. Julian Leal Trident + 16.869s 13. Fabio Onidi Coloni + 17.715s 14. Stephane Richelmi Trident + 18.338s 15. Josef Kral Addax + 19.580s 16. Rodolfo Gonzalez Caterham + 22.983s 17. Daniel de Jong Rapax + 23.456s 18. Davide Valsecchi DAMS + 10.573s+ 19. Johnny Cecotto Addax + 39.627s 20. Victor Guerin Ocean + 1 lap Retirements: Giancarlo Serenelli Lazarus 21 laps Felipe Nasr DAMS 18 laps Fabrizio Crestani Lazarus 17 laps Jolyon Palmer iSport 17 laps Tom Dillmann Rapax 11 laps Nigel Melker Ocean 1 lap
+ 10-place penalty for overtaking the safety car.
Razia proved himself cleverer still on Sunday. Three laps from the end, the Brazilian lay 6th, several seconds behind the leading group of five – all of whom were covered by two seconds.
Yet Calado – out front and dominating once again – had begun to notice the grip in his Pirelli’s ebb away. Traction was getting difficult and it was becoming more obvious with every turn of the wheel.
Whether it be corner entry or exit, his Lotus slithered awkwardly, but the Englishman held his line and the chasing pack at bay.
Indeed Haryanto had been harassing Calado for the duration, when a quick start prompted the Indonesian to 2nd spot. Chilton was there too, as were the persistent Leimer and van der Garde; the quintet snaked around the 5.4 km circuit for lap after lap – always threatening, always lurking.
Eventually impatience got the better of Haryanto. The more Calado struggled, the more tempting the gap – he could wait no longer and on lap 20, the dive came down the inside of turn 12, but Calado kept turning…
The thud was ominous and the result immediate – his left front suspension now a mangled frame, Haryanto parked his Carlin, while Calado carried on – just. For his troubles, Haryanto earned a ten-place grid penalty for the Silverstone Feature Race.
Only metres behind the Calado / Haryanto clash, Leimer also dived inside Chilton, albeit successfully. With the Carlin absent, Leimer was now 2nd, while Calado remained only a few tenths ahead.
Now the Swiss pilot laid on the pressure. An intention here and an impression there, the Racing Engineering car loomed large in Calado’s green-framed wing mirrors.
Lap 23 – the final one – and Leimer had to go for it in turn 12, but this time the pair ran wide and over the tarmac run-off. Calado cut short and rejoined quickly; Leimer took liberties and rejoined ahead of the pack.
Yet the Swiss pilot was fair. Aware of a potential penalty – and despite only a few corners remaining – Leimer gave the lead back to Calado. Only, Leimer probably slowed a little too much…
Razia, meanwhile, fell to 8th off the line, although that became 6th when Fabio Onidi hit the rear of Berthon, causing the former to pit for a new front wing, while the latter took some turns to recover his confidence.
That really should have been it, but when Calado’s tyres began to cry enough toward the end, the Brazilian was drawn back into the game and when the leading pair clashed, Razia was already lining up van der Garde.
He got him – on lap 22 – and then breezed past Chilton several corners later. With Haryanto gone, Razia was in a podium spot and presumably satisfied with that – until Leimer and Calado ran wide.
As Leimer slowed to let Calado back into the lead, Razia spotted a small gap in between the duo – and with a couple of light flicks, he dived clean through. It was clean, concise and worthy of praise – marvellous stuff.
The Brazilian appeared more shocked than anything on the podium, but delighted nonetheless. Calado – pipped again – sealed 2nd ahead of Leimer, while Chilton assumed a hard earned 4th.
Out of nowhere, Berthon grabbed a very late 5th from a “tyred-out” van der Garde. The Frenchman lost out badly at the start, when his 2nd position on the grid had become 7th once the opening tours had shaken out.
The disappearance of Haryanto and collapse of van der Garde’s pace propelled the Racing Engineering man some way back up the order.
Behind van der Garde, Trummer picked up more points for Arden, while Julian Leal registered a rare point with an 8th place finish.
It was not all clean though. The opening lap was solid until turn two, when a squeezed Marcus Ericsson*** clattered the wall, narrowing the width of the road in the process.
As a result, the unsighted Gutierrez, Coletti, Crestani and Valsecchi all collided with the Swede; only Valsecchi would continue following a pitstop.
After the brief safety car period, the race was green for a few hundred feet, when Palmer somehow ran into the back of Cecotto Jr on the start / finish straight, bringing out another safety car.
The finally went green on lap 5; however that did not stop Gonzalez from punting Stephane Richelmi into the barrier at turn two.
2012 GP2 Round of Europe (Rd 6, Sprint Race, 22 laps) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Luiz Razia Arden 46m07.255s 2. James Calado Lotus + 1.179s 3. Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering + 1.587s 4. Max Chilton Carlin + 2.425s 5. Nathanael Berthon Racing Engineering + 2.957s 6. Giedo van der Garde Caterham + 4.969s 7. Simon Trummer Arden + 8.415s 8. Julian Leal Trident + 9.501s 9. Daniel de Jong Rapax + 13.591s 10. Davide Valsecchi DAMS + 17.564s 11. Josef Král Addax + 21.005s 12. Tom Dillmann Rapax + 34.565s 13. Nigel Melker Ocean + 46.929s 14. Luiz Nasr DAMS + 50.083s 15. Rodolfo Gonzalez Caterham + 51.366s 16. Giancarlo Serenelli Lazarus + 57.490s 17. Fabio Onidi Coloni + 1m03.342s 18. Victor Guerin Ocean + 1m03.439s Retirements: Rio Haryanto Carlin 19 laps Stephane Richelmi Trident 5 laps Jolyon Palmer iSport 3 laps Johnny Cecotto Jr. Addax 3 laps Stefano Coletti Coloni 0 laps Esteban Gutierrez Lotus 0 laps Marcus Ericsson iSport 0 laps Fabrizio Crestani Lazarus 0 laps
2012 GP2 Series points standings Drivers’ Championship Pos Driver Points 1. Davide Valsecchi 141 2. Luiz Razia 140 3. James Calado 95 4. Max Chilton 93 5. Giedo van der Garde 89 6. Esteban Gutierrez 87 7. Fabio Leimer 65 8. Marcus Ericsson 52 9. Nathanael Berthon 41 10. Johnny Cecotto Jr 31 Teams’ Championship Pos Team Points 1. Lotus GP 182 2. DAMS 169 3. Arden 144 4. Carlin 119 5. Racing Engineering 106