GP2: Round 16 – Valencia, Spain – Sun Aug 24

Starting the Valencia sprint race from 14th on the grid, all championship leader Giorgio Pantano could really do was keep his nose clean, stay out of trouble, and hope all his main rivals had a bad day at the races.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Luca Filippi led the field away and held the lead for the first none laps, but then Romain Grosjean challenged him for the lead on the last corner of lap 10 and went past. Filippi was having none of it and fought back – punting Grosjean off at turn 2 into the tyre wall and out of the race.

Luca Di Grassi had already worked his way up to third, mainly thanks to the competition falling away at the start: Sebastien Buemi could not leave the grid for the warm up lap, clearing a slot in front of him; and then Andy Soucek and Jerome D’Ambrosio got off to slow starts on the dirty side of the grid. That left Di Grassi following right behind Grosjean and Filippi and in ideal position to advantage of the conflagration between the pair to nip past and take the lead for himself

That left Filippi struggling to fight off d’Ambrosio to keep the second position. Filippi also had to contend with a safety car period when Marko Asmer spun and stalled on lap 12. As it turned out, that fight was in vain – because while Filippi did cross the line in second, the stewards took a dim view of his clash with Grosjean and bestowed a 25-second penalty on him, dropping him to 13th.

Filippi continued to be critical of Grosjean, however. “To me he always acts like that, he always stays on the outside to pass or to defend, and then suddenly he closed the door: when you have somebody on the inside who can’t disappear then you have to leave him the space to go around the corner, and he would have been on the inside for the next one. If you make a mistake and are on the outside, normally the wall is a bit closer, so it’s easier to go in that.”

In a race of high attrition – almost half the field retired before full race distance – all Pantano had to do was stay out of all that trouble and he would rise up through the positions. In the end – and thanks to Filippi’s penalty – he ended up in a wonderful 3rd place.

His main championship rival, Bruno Senna, continued to have a dreadful weekend. Ater joining Pantano in running out of fuel on Saturday, today he threw away a possible chance to peg back Pantano’s points lead. Senna was quickly all over the rear of Soucek’s car after Pastor Maldonado found the wall on the second lap, and when Soucek’s pace abruptly slowed on lap 7 Senna looked set to pick up another place. But he had to swerve off line to avoid Soucek, and picked up a lot of dirt on his tyres as a result. The result was that he spun a few corners later and shunted his iSport car into the wall. “I’ve let the team down”, he admitted afterwards.

The result gives Pantano three more points to add to his lead of 71pts to Senna’s 58; and now Senna has to seriously worry about Di Grassi closing in on him and possibly taking away even the runners-up spot in the championship.

Yesterday’s winner Petrov had a ragged race, straightlining a chicane on the opening lap and ultimately getting punted into a spin by Karun Chandhok who tried a lunge from way too far back to overtake both Petroc and Javier Villa in a single move. It was doomed to end in tears, and Chandhok was also penalised by the stewards and receives a ten grid place penalty for Spa-Francorchamps, the next GP2 2008 event.

Final positions:

Pos  Driver         Team                    Time
 1.  Di Grassi      Barwa Campos Team      43:01.131
 2.  D'Ambrosio     Dams                    + 6.456
 3.  Pantano        Racing Engineering      + 7.545
 4.  Nunes          DPR                     + 12.039
 5.  Villa          Racing Engineering      + 12.674
 6.  Kobayashi      Dams                    + 13.201
 7.  Valsecchi      Durango                 + 15.394
 8.  Conway         Trident Racing          + 17.496
 9.  Tung           Trident Racing          + 20.072
10.  Rodriguez      FMS International       + 22.960
11.  Iaconelli      BCN Competicion         + 24.716
12.  Valerio        Durango                 + 25.933
13.  Filippi        Trust Team Arden        + 29.213
14.  Herck          DPR                     + 1 Lap
15.  Petrov         Barwa Campos Team       + 1 lap

Retirements:

    Driver         Team                      Laps
    Chandhok       iSport International      18
    Asmer          FMS International         12
    Grosjean       ART Grand Prix            11
    Soucek         Super Nova Racing         7
    Senna          iSport International      7
    Yamamoto       ART Grand Prix            4
    Valles         BCN Competicion           3
    Buemi          Trust Team Arden          3
    Maldonado      Piquet Sports             2
    Parente        Super Nova Racing         0
    Zuber          Piquet Sports             0

Fastest lap: Di Grassi, 1:47.712 on lap 18

Championship standings after Valencia:

Pos Driver              Points
1   Giorgio Pantano     71
2   Bruno Senna         58
3   Lucas Di Grassi     51
4   Romain Grosjean     42
5   Sebastien Buemi     37
6   Pastor Maldonado    35
7   Andreas Zuber       32
8   Karun Chandhok      31
9   Vitaly Petrov       30
10  Alvaro Parente      26
11  Mike Conway         18
12  Jerome D'Ambrosio   12
13  Andy Soucek         11
14  Kamui Kobayashi     10
15  Javier Villa         8
16  Ho-Pin Tung          7
17  Luca Filippi         6
18  Roldan Rodriguez     6
19  Yelmer Buurman       5
20  Adrian Valles        5
21  Diego Nunes          3
22  Sakon Yamamoto       3
23  Davide Valsecchi     3
24  Benjamin Hanley      1
25  Adam Carroll         1
26  Alberto Valerio      0
27  Christian Bakkerud   0
28  Marko Asmer          0
29  Carlos Iaconelli     0
30  Giacomo Ricci        0
31  Michael Herck        0
32  Milos Pavlovic       0
33  Paolo Nocera         0
34  Marcello Puglisi     0

Pos Team                        Points
1   iSport International        89
2   Barwa International Campos  82
3   Racing Engineering          79
4   Piquet Sports               67
5   ART Grand Prix              50
6   Trust Team Arden            43
7   Super Nova Racing           36
8   Trident Racing              25
9   DAMS                        22
10  FMS International            7
11  BCN Competicion              5
12  DPR                          4
13  Durango                      3
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