GP2: Rounds 17/18 – Monza, Italy – Sep 11/12

Feature race

Sunshine and cloudless blue skies graced the start of the penultimate feature race of the 2010 GP2 season, but any hopes that such ideal conditions would mean fewer accidents compared with the cold and damp Spa outing a fortnight ago were quickly dashed, as almost half the field succumbed to early crashes – including both championship contenders, which all but seals the title battle.

The first exit was a rather embarrassing one, when Rodolfo Gonzalez got a little overzealous weaving to warm his tyres up on the formation lap and planted the nose of his Arden firmly into the metal barriers on the back straight, but it didn’t hold up the start: polesitter Jules Bianchi and team mate Sam Bird got great starts and raced side-by-side down to the right hander entrance into the first chicane. Bird had the inside line and managed to force Bianchi to run wide and over the kerbing, which cost him drive out of the chicane and allowed Bird to get the upper hand and claim the lead.

The rest of the field followed them though without major incident, although Alvaro Parente banged wheels with Sergio Perez and sustained steering damage that resulted in his overshooting the first chicane and earning a pit-lane drive-thru penalty for his pains, a fate also shared by Davide Valsecchi and Fabrizio Crestani. But the real trouble came on the run down into the second chicane, when Luca Filippi lost control and went into a slide that saw him deliver a hard hit on the left rear of Giedo van der Garde. Dani Clos, following immediately behind, ended up steering wide over the kerbing which sent him into a spin all of his own. Charles Pic also got caught up in the incidents and ended up heading into the pits for a lengthy stop to have the damage sorted out and a new front wing attached.

That brought out the safety car for three laps, and when the track went green Sam Bird got a great restart that quickly powered him away from the problems that were bubbling up right behind him. First it was Bianchi and Jerome d’Ambrosio, who clashed through the chicane and ended up running off onto the grass verge. That caused the drivers immediately behind to slow up, and the compression effect had predictably disastrous results – most immediately for Pastor Maldonado who didn’t react quickly enough and ran into the back of Romain Grosjean. The collision launched him into the air, and he returned to earth with a heavy 45-degree crunch onto his front right suspension that would leave the Rapax seriously hobbled.

Nor was the accident finished yet, because this second accident caused more compression and a second separate crash in the chicane that launched Luiz Razia into the air thanks to a combination of the kerbing and impacts with Brendon Hartley and Marcus Ericsson. The three-car wreck blocked the track, and brought out the safety car again for a rapid reappearance.

It was a golden opportunity for Sergio Perez to capitalise on his rival’s accident and take the championship battle through to the final weekend in November in Abu Dhabi. Alas, that dream died just seconds after the second restart when Michael Herck tried a move on Perez and made contact, throwing the Addax into the right hand barrier going down into Variante Ascari, sending Perez for a painful grinding contact before bouncing across the gravel trap until finally coming to rest against the tyre wall. There was no coming back from his – Perez was out, and looking rather shaken and sore but otherwise unhurt.

That relieved the pressure on Maldonado, who was able to give up trying to drag his damaged car round the track and come in to retire in the pits and celebrate clinching the title with his pit crew – although as others worked the numbers, it emerged that Maldonado couldn’t quite lay claim to the title just yet. There was still a slight mathematical chance that Perez could still win provided he got every point going from the remaining races (including fastest lap) and also providing Maldonado failed to score again. Hardly likely, and the deal will surely be sealed in Sunday’s sprint race, but it’s enough to make the celebrations just a little premature.

The rest of the race proceeded remarkably calmly – partly because there were so few cars left on the road. The ART duo were clearly the fastest cars on track, Bianchi effortlessly passing Oliver Turvey when the iSport car emerged from his mandatory pit stop just in front of him. But there was no catching Bird, who had complete control of the race and was rewarded with a great pit stop of his own, and the Briton was able to claim a convincing and well-deserved – not to mention long-overdue – GP2 victory.

Bianchi and Turvey claimed the other podium positions, with Christian Vietoris, d’Ambrosio, Adrian Zaugg and Edoardo Piscopo ahead of Max Chilton in eighth place, meaning that the teenager won pole position on the reverse grid of the sprint race.

Feature race results

Pos Driver  	        Team               Gap 	
1.  Sam Bird            ART                30 laps
2.  Jules Bianchi       ART                + 8.585  
3.  Oliver Turvey       iSport             + 17.168 
4.  Christian Vietoris  Racing Engineering + 18.249 
5.  Jerome D'Ambrosio   DAMS               + 19.361 
6.  Adrian Zaugg        Trident            + 21.189 
7.  Edoardo Piscopo     Trident            + 24.618 
8.  Max Chilton         Ocean Racing       + 28.662 
9.  Davide Valsecchi    iSport             + 46.833 
10. Fabrizio Crestani   DPR                + 47.773 
11. Charles Pic         Arden              + 50.484 
12. Alvaro Parente      Scuderia Coloni    + 59.930 
13. Romain Grosjean     DAMS               + 1 lap  
	 
Retirement

    Fabio Leimer        Ocean Racing       Lap 24
    Pastor Maldonado    Rapax              Lap 8   
    Sergio Perez        Barwa Addax        Lap 6   
    Michael Herck       DPR                Lap 6   
    Marcus Ericsson     Super Nova         Lap 4   
    Luiz Razia          Rapax              Lap 4   
    Brendon Hartley     Scuderia Coloni    Lap 3   
    Daniel Clos         Racing Engineering Lap 1   
    Luca Filippi        Super Nova         Lap 1   
    Guido van der Garde Barwa Addax        Lap 1   
    Rodolfo Gonzalez    Arden              Lap 0   

Sprint race

Christian Vietoris’ stunning flying start was the talk of the GP2 sprint race, as he managed to fly from fifth place, slalom around the sluggish cars on the two rows in front of him, and somehow emerge in the lead going into the first turn. It was so good that you knew, without question, that it must be a jump start: only, it wasn’t. Vietoris had the lead fair and square, and would hold it right through to the chequered flag to claim his maiden GP2 victory, the second first-time winner of the weekend.

Of the rest, Jerome D’Ambrosio managed to pick up the pieces and emerge in second place while further back Saturday’s feature race winner Sam Bird was also having a good start, climbing to fourth place in the course of the first lap and picking up third place three laps later with a nice move on pole sitter Max Chilton down the inside into the first chicane. Bird quickly closed down the gap to D’Ambrosio, but he would be unable to do anything about overtaking him despite some particularly strong moves in the final lap of the race. Both of them stuck close to the back of Vietoris and kept the young German under pressure for the entire 21 lap race length, but none of them had that vital edge to make a decisive move on the others.

Jules Bianchi finished behind his ART team mate in fourth, having pulled off a similar move to Bird’s on Max Chilton. However, Chilton had rallied in the later laps and managed to hold off attacks from Oliver Turvey to claim fifth place, Turvey having to settle for the single point of sixth place.

After the crashfest the previous day, the sprint race proved an altogether more well-mannered affair. Even so, Pastor Maldonado didn’t make it to the end of the first lap: he was caught out when he entered the Parabolica only to find the cars in front slowing up, and his attempt to brake and avoid running into them caused the car to get loose and run into the gravel, ending up with the Rapax car embedded in the tyre wall. Despite this second DNF of the weekend, however, Pastor’s spirits were raised when the initial cause of the cars ahead slowing up was revealed: series rival Sergio Perez had gone off into the gravel himself, and while he has been able to crawl back to the tarmac and resume it was most definitely the end of any chance of his scoring any points. Without any points, Perez’ title bid was at and end: Maldonado was, finally and unequivocally, the 2010 GP2 champion.

Fabio Leimer failed to make the start of the race, a huge amount of quick-dry cement dumped on his grid spot testament to a catastrophic hydraulics failure. Rodolfo Gonzalez – who had failed to make the start on Saturday – this time made it to the fifth lap before running into the rear right suspension of Giedo van der Garde’s Barwa Addax on the approach to the second chicane, which ultimately saw them both retire from collision damage.

There were also retirements for Edoardo Piscopo – who lost his rear wing to the overly solicitous attentions of Davide Valsecchi into the first chicane (Valsecchi had to pit for a new wing and ended up at the back of the field) – and for Romain Grosjean just three laps before the end, after Adrian Zaugg managed to slip past the DAMS car into the same corner at the climax of a race-long duel between the two drivers, only to then deliver a hit on the right front wheel that snapped Grosjean’s steering rack – damage not dissimilar to that sustained by Lewis Hamilton later on in the F1 Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez finished his pointless weekend back in 13th, the high-point of his day being a nice move on Luca Filippi and Fabrizio Crestani through the first chicane on the penultimate lap. Luca Filippi had been trying to overtake Crestini but been thwarted, and instead pulled off a daring move on the DPR car down the start/finish straight at the start of the final lap that took him onto the grass verge to force his way through – hard-as-nails racing even then when the spoils are a mere 14th place.

Sprint race result

Pos  Driver               Team                  Time/Gap
 1. Christian Vietoris   Racing Engineering  32:28.733
 2. Jerome D'Ambrosio    DAMS                +   1.048
 3. Sam Bird             ART                 +   1.184
 4. Jules Bianchi        ART                 +   6.789
 5. Max Chilton          Ocean               +   9.485
 6. Oliver Turvey        iSport              +   9.917
 7. Adrian Zaugg         Trident             +  13.430
 8. Charles Pic          Arden               +  15.627
 9. Alvaro Parente       Coloni              +  18.921
10. Luiz Razia           Rapax               +  21.588
11. Marcus Ericsson      Super Nova          +  25.746
12. Dani Clos            Racing Engineering  +  28.111
13. Sergio Perez         Barwa Addax         +  28.733
14. Luca Filippi         Super Nova          +  31.502
15. Fabrizio Crestani    DPR                 +  33.045
16. Davide Valsecchi     iSport              +1:12.761

Retirements

    Romain Grosjean      DAMS             Lap 18   
    Brendon Hartley      Coloni           Lap 9
    Giedo van der Garde  Barwa Addax      Lap 3
    Michael Herck        DPR              Lap 2
    Edoardo Piscopo      Trident          Lap 2
    Rodolfo Gonzalez     Arden            Lap 1
    Pastor Maldonado     Rapax            Lap 0
    Fabio Leimer         Ocean            DNS

GP2 Championship after Monza

Drivers                   Teams
1  Pastor Maldonado  87   1  Rapax                    107
2  Sergio Perez      60   2  Barwa Addax Team         99 
3  Jules Bianchi     52   3  ART Grand Prix           94 
4  Daniel Clos       43   4  Racing Engineering       72 
5  Sam Bird          42   5  iSport International     58 
6  G.van der Garde   39   6  Arden International      32 
7  Oliver Turvey     37   7  DAMS                     28 
8  C.Vietoris        29   8  DPR                      28 
9  Charles Pic       28   9  Scuderia Coloni          17 
10 J.D'Ambrosio      21   10 Super Nova Racing        16 
11 Davide Valsecchi  21   11 Trident Racing           14 
12 Luiz Razia        20   12 Ocean Racing Technology  11 
13 Giacomo Ricci     16
14 Alvaro Parente    13
15 Michael Herck     12
16 Marcus Ericsson   11
17 Adrian Zaugg      9 
18 Fabio Leimer      8 
19 Romain Grosjean   7 
20 Luca Filippi      5 
21 Rodolfo Gonzalez  4 
22 Alberto Valerio   4 
23 J.Cecotto Jr.     3 
24 Max Chilton       3 
25 Edoardo Piscopo   2 
26 Josef Kral        0 
27 Ho-Pin Tung       0 
28 Vlado Arabadjiev  0 
29 F.Crestani        0 
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