GP2: Round 15/16 – Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium – 29/30 August

Feature race

Alvaro Parente scored a maiden win for Ocean Racing, overcoming a sluggish start to retain the lead into the La Source hairpin ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, and then to control the race from then until the chequered flag. Hulkenberg also had a sluggish start and was unable to take advantage of Parente’s problems, and seemed to settle for second place from quite early on although he cut Parente’s lead – that had been over four seconds at one point – to under one second by the end.

Hulkenberg would have been thinking of the championship, and his only serious rival Vitaly Petrov had a disaster of a day. With the slow starts from the front row, the rest of the field was disrupted and Petrov came out worst of all, dropping to ninth place from 4th on the grid within the first two turns. He grimy set about climbing back through the field, but then his engine let go on lap 6 and he wasn’t even able to limp back to the pits to retire. Jerome d’Ambrosio also had an engine failure late in the race on lap 20, an unusual occurrence in GP2 and possible down to a protracted series of delays at the start.

To start with, the formation lap delayed by 15 minutes following a pit lane accident involving Trident Racing mechanic Vasco Rossi, who suffered serious head injuries when a rattle gun was left in the path of Ricardo Teixeira’s rear wheel as the Angolan was leaving the pits to join the dummy grid: Teixeira’s car snagged the cable as he was accelerating into pitlane and brought heavy sections of pit equipment crashing down onto Rossi’s head. Reports say that Rossi was given the all-clear later that night night following MRI scans, and had regained consciousness after being initially put in a medically-induced coma to aid treatment. He is expected to leave hospital within the next couple of days.

Then Daniel Clos failed to get away on the formation lap, forcing him to start from the pit lane instead; and as the cars came to the starting grid, Sergio Perez baffled everyone by rolling straight through his grid position on on down to La Source, forcing a second formation lap. Perez crawled back to the pits and retired with that emerged as clutch problems before the race finally got underway albeit with the difficulties of the leaders getting off the start.

Alberto Valerio was an early retirement, nerfed off the track and into the wall at Les Combes by banging wheels with Michael Herck, which put both cars out.

After Petrov’s engine failure and uneventful mandatory pit stops, the only serious on-track battle among the leaders was between Lucas Di Grassi – who looked fast in the early stages – and Pastor Maldonardo, who benefited from the starting grid disruption to climb from 9th to 4th but found di Grassi too tough to overtake despite several serious attempts in the closing laps of the race.

Karun Chandhok managed to cut the chicane at Les Combes on lap 7 and lose traction on the grass; collecting Davide Rigon on the way to crunching against the wall. A copycat incident between Davide Valsecchi and Luca Filippi on lap 13 left more wreckage on track than the first and caused a safety car to be called out for a couple of laps, closing up the field but ultimately not affecting the race.

The race finally finished under a second safety car, after Durango’s Stefano Coletti’s steering seemed to suddenly fail causing him to snap into a straight-line trajectory right at the high speed Eau Rouge, taking him into a heavy impact with the tyre barrier. The car caught fire as fuel lines ruptured with the force of the impact, and Coletti was unable to extricate himself immediately, so that while he was conscious and communicating (and gesticulating) with marshals and medical personnel after the accident, he was still being extracted from the wreckage when the race finished. Although initial speculation reported that the Durango driver had suffered foot and back injuries, the team later said that he had merely sustained heavy bruising, but the monocoque of his car could not be repaired in time for the sprint race ruling him out for the Sunday event.

Afterwards, the stewards got to work and imposed a 25s penalty on Diego Nunes, for cutting the Bus Stop chicane while fighting iSport team-mate Giedo van der Garde and Piquet GP’s Roldan Rodriguez, dropping him to 9th and putting Arden’s Edoardo Mortara up to 8th and in pole position for the sprint race.

And Racing Engineering’s Dani Clos and Durango’s Nelson Panciatici also got 25s penalties after setting fastest laps under yellow flags. However, the penalty doesn’t affect their positions (10th and 11th respectively) because of the high number of retirements.

Race result

1   Alvaro Parente      Ocean Racing Technology  54'12.997
2   Nico Huelkenberg    ART Grand Prix           54'13.940   + 0.943
3   Lucas Di Grassi     Fat Burner Racing        54'16.176   + 3.179
4   Pastor Maldonado    ART Grand Prix           54'16.465   + 3.468
5   Diego Nunes         iSport International     54'17.102   + 4.105
6   Roldan Rodriguez    Piquet GP                54'17.346   + 4.349
7   G.van der Garde     iSport International     54'17.684   + 4.687
8   Kamui Kobayashi     DAMS                     54'18.466   + 5.469
9   Edoardo Mortara     Telmex Arden             54'18.969   + 5.972
10  Daniel Clos         Fat Burner Racing        54'20.312   + 7.315
11  N.Panciatici        Durango                  54'23.471   + 10.474
12  Stefano Coletti     Durango                  48'47.552   + 2 Laps
13  Javier Villa        Super Nova Racing        54'23.436   + 3 Laps

Retirements:

    J.D'Ambrosio        DAMS                     20  Retirement
    Luca Filippi        Super Nova Racing        13  Retirement
    Davide Valsecchi    Barwa Addax Team         13  Retirement
    Karun Chandhok      Ocean Racing Technology   7  Retirement
    Davide Rigon        Trident Racing            7  Retirement
    Vitaly Petrov       Barwa Addax Team          6  Retirement
    Michael Herck       DPR                       0  Retirement
    Alberto Valerio     Piquet GP                 0  Retirement
    Ricardo Teixeira    Trident Racing            0  Retirement
    Sergio Perez        Telmex Arden              0  Not started

Sprint race

A messy start to the sprint race saw Giedo van der Garde sweep into the lead when polesitter Edoardo Mortara was sluggish getting off the grid, and then go on to safely lead the race right through to the chequered flag to pick up his second win of the season.

But further back, a horribly overlooked lunge by Dani Clos charged into series leader Nico Hulkenberg at La Source, emphatically putting all three cars out of the race in a pile of carbon fibre wreckage. In a separate incident on an outside line, Vitaly Petrov also clouted Jerome d’Ambrosio who was trying to jink left to avoid the incident, putting d’Ambrosio out as well; Petrov was able to continue, despite being jarred into the air by the impact. Clos was handed a ten-place grid penalty for the next race at Monza for causing the accident.

No safety car was required for this incident, but it made an appearance a lap later after Pastor Maldonardo made a bid to take second place from Mortara up the hill into Les Combes. Maldonardo tried sweeping round the outside of the chicane, but banged wheels with Mortara and was knocked onto the grass on which he spun and ended up reversing into the tyre wall, wrecking his rear wing. Mortara also managed to clip Kamui Kobayashi as he recovered from the initial incident, tipping Kobayashi into a spin that left him running at the back of the field and giving Roldan Rodriguez the opportunity to slip through and take second from Mortara.

Mortara’s eventful day wasn’t quite over yet: at the restart, he lost third spot to Diego Nunes at the same spot at Les Combes that had seen the collision with Maldonardo: Nunes showed how it was possible to get around on the outside line. And then shortly afterwards, Lucas Di Grassi lined up Mortara in his sites going into the Bus Stop, and made a lunge from way too far back that inevitably ended in a thumping collision that sent the Fat Burner Racing bouncing into the air and Mortara’s car the recipient of some bodywork-crunching blows. Although arguably Mortara could have been more aware and left di Grassi a bit more room into the corner, the stewards again unequivocally assigned blame and decreed a two-place penalty at Monza for di Grassi.

All this mayhem was good news for one person on the track at least – Sergio Perez had started from the back of the grid but had avoided the accidents and weaved his way through to a spectacular fourth place. Despite being demonstrably faster than Nunes in third, however, he wasn’t able to get past the iSport car to improve further.

Petrov wasn’t really able to take advantage of Hulkenberg’s retirement and had to battle extremely hard for a single solitary point against his own Barwa Addax team mate Davide Valsecchi who was sinularly bloody minded in fighting off Petrov for sixth. Perhaps he was smarting at the ease with which Davide Rigon passed him up the hill for 5th place earlier on.

After all the mayhem of the first four laps, the rest of the race was pretty calm by comparison. The only other retirements of the race were feature race winner Alvaro Parente (a quiet case of engine failure rather than an accident) and Luca Filippi (who did not take the start due to clutch problems.)

And up front, van der Garde continued to hold a perfectly safe lead (3.1s by the end) over Rodriguez to take the victory.

Race results

Pos  Driver            Team                     Time
 1.  G.van der Garde   iSport International     37:54.281
 2.  Roldan Rodriguez  Piquet GP                +   3.102
 3.  Diego Nunes       iSport International     +   4.998
 4.  Sergio Perez      Arden International      +   6.292
 5.  Davide Rigon      Trident Racing           +  13.809
 6.  Vitaly Petrov     Barwa Addax Team         +  17.459
 7.  Karun Chandhok    Ocean Racing Technology  +  18.800
 8.  Davide Valsecchi  Barwa Addax Team         +  20.039
 9.  Michael Herck     DPR                      +  21.403
10.  Javier Villa      Super Nova Racing        +  22.860
11.  Kamui Kobayashi   DAMS                     +  25.291
12.  Alberto Valerio   Piquet GP                +  36.045
13.  N.Panciatici      Durango                  +  48.746
14.  Ricardo Teixeira  Trident Racing           +  54.779

Not classified:

     Driver            Team                     Laps
     Edoardo Mortara   Arden International       4
     Lucas Di Grassi   Racing Engineering        4
     Alvaro Parente    Ocean Racing Technology   2
     Pastor Maldonado  ART Grand Prix            1
     Nico Hulkenberg   ART Grand Prix            0
     Daniel Clos       Racing Engineering        0
     J.D'Ambrosio      DAMS                      0
     Luca Filippi      Super Nova Racing         0

Fastest lap: Perez, 1:56.731 on lap 7

GP2 championship standings

Despite a disastrous sprint race, Hulkenberg’s lead gets bigger and bigger, as chief rival Petrov had troubles of his own throughout the weekend and was unable to capitalise. With only two weekends remaining in the season, the championship is looking decided with Nico enjoying a 17pt lead. But it’s not yet insurmountable …

Pos Driver  Points
1   Nico Hulkenberg     83
2   Vitaly Petrov       56
3   Lucas Di Grassi     46
4   Romain Grosjean     45
5   Pastor Maldonado    36
6   Alvaro Parente      27
7   Luca Filippi        24
8   Giedo van der Garde 22
9   Sergio Perez        22
10  Roldan Rodriguez    21
11  Jerome D'Ambrosio   21
12  Andreas Zuber       20
13  Javier Villa        20
14  Alberto Valerio     16
15  Edoardo Mortara     14
16  Kamui Kobayashi     10
17  Davide Valsecchi    10
18  Karun Chandhok      10
19  Diego Nunes          6
20  Davide Rigon         3
21  Daniel Clos          0
22  Michael Herck        0
23  Luiz Razia           0
24  Nelson Panciatici    0
25  Stefano Coletti      0
26  Ricardo Teixeira     0
27  Giacomo Ricci        0
28  Franck Perera        0
29  Rodolfo Gonzalez     0
        
Pos Team    Points
1   ART Grand Prix             119
2   Barwa Addax Team           101
3   Fat Burner Racing           46
4   Super Nova Racing           44
5   Piquet GP                   37
6   Ocean Racing Technology     37
7   Telmex Arden International  36
8   DAMS                        31
9   iSport International        28
10  FMS International           20
11  Durango                     10
12  Trident Racing               3
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