GP2: Round 13/14 – Valencia, Spain – 22/23 August

Feature race

Vitaly Petrov won the Valencia GP2 feature race, with series leader Nico Hulkenberg coming in second.

Hulkenberg got off to a good start but went into turn 2 too fast, out-braked himself and barely made the turn without hitting the tyre wall, enabling Petrov and Sergio Perez to get past. Fortunately Hulkenberg minimised the damage by rejoining in third and made further amends by pulling off a powerful move on Perez before the end of the lap to reclaim second.

However, Petrov was another matter. Hulkenberg kept close behind the leader, hoping to overhaul him at the andatory pit stops, but that didn’t happen; he then harried the leader for several laps but again wasn’t able to force the Russion into any mistakes. He held back and tried again in the closing laps of the race and forced Petrov into locking brakes on several occasions, but he held firm and crossed the finish line in first place less than half a second ahead of Hulkenberg.

The effort it had taken was clear on Petrov’s face afterwards, as he guzzled water and poured it over his head to cool down. Hulkenberg by contrast looked rearkably fresh, as indeed did Perez who had held on to third someway back from the leaders but comfortabley ahead of Alvaro Parente in fourth place.

Lucas di Grassi had run as high as fourth before slowing and retiring with two laps remaining; Davide Valsecchi was on target for eighth for most of the race before dropping three places in the last couple of laps, meaning the final points position went to Pastor Maldonado, which also meant that he would start from pole position in tomorrow’s sprint race. However, a post-race nspection found the barge board underneath the car was loose, compromising the minimum ride height, and he was disqualified and sent to the back of the grid for the spring race, bumping Kamui Kobayashi up a place.

The stewards had a busy afternoon, with Giedo van der Garde and Stefano Coletti penalised for a flagrant jump start and Coletti getting another drive-thri another for crossing the white line at the pit exit from his first penalty, before retiring at mid-distance. Franck Perera was penalised for getting push start after stalling on the getaway on the formation lap; Javier Villa also stalled and had to start from the pit lane.

Pos Driver                Team                        Time
 1. Vitaly Petrov         Barwa Addax Team            56:24.157
 2. Nico Hulkenberg       ART Grand Prix              + 0.396
 3. Sergio Perez          Telmex Arden International  + 16.004
 4. Alvaro Parente        Ocean Racing Technology     + 22.922
 5. Roldan Rodriguez      Piquet GP                   + 26.891
 6. Edoardo Mortara       Telmex Arden International  + 38.444
 7. Luca Filippi          Super Nova Racing           + 44.153
 8. Pastor Maldonado      ART Grand Prix              + 52.496
 9. Kamui Kobayashi       DAMS                        + 59.464
10. J.D'Ambrosio          DAMS                        + 59.959
11. Davide Valsecchi      Barwa Addax Team            + 1'05.003
12. Diego Nunes           iSport International        + 1'07.196
13. Davide Rigon          Trident Racing              + 1'07.612
14. Michael Herck         DPR                         + 1'14.817
15. G.van der Garde       iSport International        + 1'16.354
16. Franck Perera         DPR                         + 1'17.358
17. Andreas Zuber         Scuderia Coloni             + 1'19.836
18. Alberto Valerio       Piquet GP                   + 1'44.040
19. Javier Villa          Super Nova Racing           + 1 Lap
20. Lucas Di Grassi       Racing Engineering          + 3 Laps

Retirements:

    Driver                  Team                        Laps
    Karun Chandhok          Ocean Racing Technology      26
    Stefano Coletti         Durango                      16
    Luiz Razia              Scuderia Coloni              3
    N.Panciatici            Durango                      3
    Ricardo Teixeira        Trident Racing               2
    Daniel Clos             Racing Engineering           0

Fastest lap: Hulkenberg, 1:47.041 on lap 18

Sprint race

Where the feature race has been a solid, professional and at times processional race (after the initial, traditional first- and second-corner collisions at least), the sprint race was anything but – and at times looked like a bunch of five-year-olds who had never driven before let loose in bumper cars.

Kamui Kobayashi started from pole after Pastor Maldonado was demoted to the back of the grid for a technical infringement, but he got himself into a collision with Luca Filippi at turn 2. Di Grassi was firmly in collision with the tyre wall and Kobayashi had his front wing badly damaged, although it took a black-and-orange flag to get him to come into the pits for a replacement.

Further back, Andy Zuber managed to spin his car coming out of turn 1 and do a full three sixty across the track before clouting the opposite wall. That, and more cars – Giedo van der Garde and Michael Herck – finding the tyre wall in turn 2 (a corner rapidly acquiring some notoriety at this rate) brought out the first safety car of the afternoon.

Nico Hulkenberg, starting from 7th, had played a canny game and with Kobayashi summoned to pit lane he inherited the race lead, and was never threatened therafter. It was just as well that he was ahead of the rest of the field, as there were so many collisions going on that practically no one escaped unscathed.

Roldan Rodriguez, for example, managed to overcook an overtaking move, hit the kerbing and spin the car off backwards into the barriers requiring a second safety car period for the Piquet GP car to be craned off. And a third safety car in eight laps was required before half distance when Edoardo Mortara made a clumsey lunge on Alvaro Parente, spinning Parente around and damaging his front wing. Parente tried to recover to the pits but the wing disloged under the car and left him unable to move any further, requring another pause in proceedings while this car was also craned off. Mortara was handed a penalty for causing the accident.

Even the senior drivers were not immune to the bump and grinds: feature race winner Vitaly Petrov, running third after this latest safety car, had a scary moment when it looked like he was going to lose his front wing on the back of Sergio Perez going into the final corner to take the green flag restart – no one was covering themselves with glory handling the running behind the safety car today.

But Petrov’s wing stayed on, and he was able to tuck in behind Perez as the race settled down for the second half of proceedings – enough of the mad cows having been culled to stop the accident-fest and allow the full race distance to be completed before the time limit kicked in. Petrov was clearly quicker than Perez, but – like Hulkenberg had found the previous day behind Petrov himself – there was simply no way past on track, and so Petrov had to settle for third place at race end.

Durango’s difficult weekend was completed when both of its cars were penalised for starting from the wrong grid position, and Stefano Coletti had to retire when he came back to the pits with serious suspension damage in any case. And the state of Daniel Clos’ Racing Engineering car summed up the race, with a wrecked front wing and a collapsed rear wing making the car look very second hand by the time he too crawled into the pits to retire.

It was certainly entertaining, and captivated the attention of the media and drivers there for the main F1 event, who must be looking at GP2 and wondering which type of race will prevail for the Grand Prix proper – the processional, hard-to-overtake serious affair, or the fun but costly wreck-fest?

Pos Driver             Time/Delay
1   Nico Hulkenberg     44:36.084
2   Sergio Perez        + 11.609
3   Vitaly Petrov       + 13.229
4   Jerome D'Ambrosio   + 28.580
5   Diego Nunes         + 29.195
6   Karun Chandhok      + 31.608
7   Davide Rigon        + 32.101
8   Pastor Maldonado    + 32.742
9   Javier Villa        + 34.564
10  Alberto Valerio     + 35.784
11  Kamui Kobayashi     + 39.416
12  Edoardo Mortara     + 40.966
13  Luiz Razia          + 45.114
14  Ricardo Teixeira    + 48.860
15  Nelson Panciatici   + 1:18.778
16  Franck Perera       + 2 Laps

Retirements             Lap
    Daniel Clos         11
    Stefano Coletti     10
    Alvaro Parente       5
    Roldan Rodriguez     2
    Luca Filippi         1
    Andreas Zuber        0
    Michael Herck        0
    Lucas Di Grassi      0
    Giedo van der Garde  0
    Davide Valsecchi     0

GP2 championship standings

With Romain Grosjean now exited to F1 for the remainder of the year, the title is most definitely a two-horse race.

Nico Hulkenberg now has a 20-point advantage over main rival Vitaly Petrov with three rounds remaining after a strong and consistent race weekend for both drivers.

Pos Driver          Points
1   Nico Hulkenberg     75
2   Vitaly Petrov       55
3   Romain Grosjean     45
4   Lucas Di Grassi     40
5   Pastor Maldonado    31
6   Luca Filippi        24
7   Jerome D'Ambrosio   21
8   Andreas Zuber       20
9   Javier Villa        20
10  Sergio Perez        18
11  Alberto Valerio     16
12  Alvaro Parente      14
13  Giedo van der Garde 13
14  Edoardo Mortara     13
15  Roldan Rodriguez    12
16  Davide Valsecchi    10
17  Karun Chandhok      10
18  Kamui Kobayashi      8
19  Diego Nunes          2
20  Davide Rigon         1
        
Pos Team                         Points
1   ART Grand Prix                  106
2   Barwa Addax Team                100
3   Super Nova Racing                44
4   Fat Burner Racing Engineering    40
5   Telmex Arden International       31
6   DAMS                             29
7   Piquet GP                        28
8   Ocean Racing Technology          24
9   FMS International                20
10  iSport International             15
11  Durango                          10
12  Trident Racing                    1
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