GP2: Rounds 19/20 – Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi – Nov 13-14

Feature race

After nine weeks off, the GP2 drivers were recalled for one last outing in 2010 despite the fact that all the year’s titles were decided, and many of the top drivers’ minds were far more focused on the upcoming tyre and rookie tests here next week for the Formula 1 teams.

Sergio Perez already has an assured F1 drive for 2011 and will be in the Sauber come Bahrain in March. Today though he was back in the Barwa Addax car, which was on the front row of the feature race grid after original second placed driver Dani Clos got hit with a ten-place grid penalty for ignoring the red light at the end of the pit lane at the end of the session. Clos was one of six drivers caught out: GP2 champion Pastor Maldonardo was another, as was Jules Bianchi, Perez’s main threat for second place in the standings. Sam Bird, Giedo van der Garde and Jerome D’Ambrosio were the others penalised.

Perez made the most of his new front row position and easily dismissed a rather sluggish polesitter Oliver Turvey into turn 1. Turvey banged wheels with Fabio Leimer but held second place, Leimer coming off the worse for the contact and losing third place to Romain Grosjean who had got off to a blazing start from the third row of the revised grid.

There was a flutter of cars spinning wide into turn 1, with Giedo van der Garde and Jules Bianchi making contact leaving van der Garde stranded and out of the race and Charles Pic also getting mixed up in the fallout. Seconds later and Adrian Zaugg was tapped into a spin in the chicane by Michael Herck and the trident beached itself on the kerbing, which forced a safety car period to allow the car to be removed.

That immediately wiped out the big lead Perez had managed to pull out over Turvey, but the lasting damage was to Pastor Maldonado who proceeded to overtake the car in front while the safety car was out, after some of the track signals seemed to incorrectly indicate that part of the track was green. Maldonado stayed out while the team argued over the drive-thru penalty that this incurred, but in the end it was no good and he fell back to 17th by the end having led the race at one point while the mandatory pit stops cycled through.

After the safety car, Perez was quickly up to speed and soon blasted away again from the competition. When he did come in and pit, he returned in second place with only Maldonado (yet to pit or accept his penalty) up the road in front of him, but Perez used his fresh rubber to rip through the gap and rapidly pass the new GP2 champion – a chastening experience for Pastor, no doubt, who surely would much rather this rump weekend of races never existed at all.

Sam Bird and Dani Clos pulled off amazing recoveries from their grid penalties. After starting 18th and 11th respectively, they stormed through the field. Bird was quickly up to 6th and made the most of an early pit stop strategy after coming in on lap 6. Clos subsequently dropped in behind him after his own stop, and followed him through as they passed Luis Razia and Davide Valsecchi almost in formation. Clos almost ruined the fairytale recovery with a late lunge that left him locked up and almost running into Bird, but disaster was averted and both cars made it to the finish in 3rd and 4th places respectively.

Romain Grosjean’s early prospects were hit by a failure with his crew’s left rear wheelgun that made his pit stop agonisingly slow, and he finished in 6th place after overtaking Luiz Razia on the final lap for the position. Perez’ rival for second place, Jules Bianchi, lost time after clashing with Max Chilton on lap 5: after getting alongside him down the start/finish straight, Bianchi then turned in and failed to leave enough room for the Ocean car, causing them to lock wheels and launching the left hand side of Bianchi’s car briefly into the air, and spinning him around. Bianchi also had another late race spin and ended up a distant 18th place.

Josef Kral held off Brendon Hartley to take 8th place which means he starts the sprint race in pole position through the reversed grid system. It was Kral’s first race back after suffering serious back injuries back in Valencia in June.

Feature race results

Pos Driver            Team              Time/Gap
 1. Sergio Perez      Barwa Addax       59:53.752s
 2. Oliver Turvey     iSport             + 21.065s
 3. Sam Bird          ART                + 29.695s
 4. Dani Clos         Racing Engineering + 30.442s
 5. Davide Valsecchi  iSport             + 36.614s
 6. Romain Grosjean   DAMS               + 38.175s
 7. Luiz Razia        Rapax              + 39.196s
 8. Josef Kral        Super Nova         + 39.724s
 9. Brendon Hartley   Coloni             + 40.679s
10. Rodolfo Gonzalez  Arden              + 49.704s
11. Marcus Ericsson   Super Nova         + 55.360s
12. Max Chilton       Ocean              + 57.925s
13. Fabrizio Crestani DPR                + 58.334s
14. Jerome D'Ambrosio DAMS               + 58.836s
15. James Jakes       Coloni             + 61.227s
16. Michael Herck     DPR                + 62.178s
17. Pastor Maldonado  Rapax              + 74.109s
18. Jules Bianchi     ART                + 89.646s
19. Federico Leo      Trident            + 96.305s
20. Charles Pic       Arden              + 1 lap

Retirements:

Ho-Pin Tung          Racing Engineering  11 laps
Fabio Leimer         Ocean               7 laps
Adrian Zaugg         Trident             0 laps
Giedo van der Garde  Barwa Addax         0 laps

Fastest lap: Sergio Perez, 1:50.749 on lap 30

Sprint race

Davide Valsecchi claimed the final race win of GP2’s 2010 season at Abu Dhabi, his first series victory in two years.

The polesitter, Josef Kral, got a terrible start and fell to sixth place before the first corner, leaving Luiz Razia in the lead into turn 1. But Razia outbraked himself and ran off, allowing Valsecchi and Romain Grosjean to go through side-by-side; but then Razia sot back onto the track to resume battle and Grosjean suddenly realised that he was the middleman in a three-way battle that was heading straight into an accident. He pulled out and let the other two sort things out between them, and Valsecchi just had the edge.

Behind them, Dani Clos and Sam Bird were having a private battle over fourth place that would decide their relative standings in the GP2 championship; they were locked in battle while Sergio Perez go past Kral for sixth and ate up the distance to them, clearly intending to make short work of them both. However, the Mexican driver tried a lunge down the inside of Sam Bird into turn 8 that was never on, and although he tried frantically to pull out of it Bird – not expecting the attack – turned in on him and contact was made. Tyres locked together, and Bird was launched several feet up in the air which made short work of his left rear suspension; Perez meanwhile paid for his transgression by having his right front wheel ripped off, save for the safety tether.

That freed up Dani Clos to try and hunt down Grosjean in search of beating Jules Bianchi to third place in the GP2 championship, but it was not to be – Grosjean was safe, while up ahead Valsecchi was able to hold off any potential fightback from Razia to claim the race win, his first of this year’s GP2 season after his success claiming the winter GP2 Asia miniseries title.

Thanks to the Bird/Perez incident, Josef Kral was able to recover from his poor start to finish in 5th place, just ahead of Oliver Turvey who spent much of the second half of the race fighting off a sustained attack from Brendon Hartley for the last championship point for sixth place. Turvey went off the road several times under the pressure and was lucky not to get penalised for so much off-track activity.

Starting from 17th, Pastor Maldonado once again failed to score for the sixth consecutive outing, managing to climb only to 10th place. But at least his day wasn’t as wretched as that of Giedo van der Garde who was handed no fewer than three penalties in the course of the race: firstly for a jump start that wasn’t apparent form any of the TV replays (James Jakes was also deemed to have jumped the start and handed the same penalty); then a second drive-thru for “not respecting the track limits (in other words, running off at the same spot too many times – exactly the sort of thing Turvey subsequently got away with) and finally for speeding in the pit lane while serving the second penalty. Unsurprisingly, then, van der Garde came last of those still running, although he did claim the fastest lap honours.

Perez and Van der Garde’s bad day effectively decided the GP2 constructors’ championship, with Razia’s second place giving Rapax the title ahead of Barwa Addax despite the team getting no help from its driver champion Maldonado in the closing races of the season.

Sprint race results

1. Davide Valsecchi     iSport International        40:59.120s
2. Luiz Razia           Rapax                        +  0.925s
3. Romain Grosjean      DAMS                         +  5.107s
4. Daniel Clos          Racing Engineering           +  5.597s
5. Josef Kral           Super Nova Racing            + 17.853s
6. Oliver Turvey        iSport International         + 21.516s
7. Brendon Hartley      Scuderia Coloni              + 21.924s
8. Jules Bianchi        ART Grand Prix               + 22.567s
9. Jerome D'Ambrosio    DAMS                         + 24.665s
10. Pastor Maldonado    Rapax                        + 25.171s
11. Michael Herck       DPR                          + 25.672s
12. Charles Pic         Arden International          + 31.925s
13. Max Chilton         Ocean Racing Technology      + 35.481s
14. Ho-Pin Tung         Racing Engineering           + 36.654s
15. Fabrizio Crestani   DPR                          + 37.828s
16. Fabio Leimer        Ocean Racing Technology      + 38.401s
17. Rodolfo Gonzalez    Arden International          + 38.964s
18. James Jakes         Scuderia Coloni              + 51.778s
19. Giedo van der Garde Barwa Addax Team             + 76.380s

Retirements

Marcus Ericsson     Super Nova Racing   18 laps
Federico Leo        Trident Racing      10 laps
Sam Bird            ART Grand Prix       4 laps
Sergio Perez        Barwa Addax Team     4 laps
Adrian Zaugg        Trident Racing       0 laps

Fastest lap: Giedo van der Garde, 1:50.110 on lap 20

GP2 championship standings after round 20

Pos Driver              Pts  Pos Team                    Pts
1.  Pastor Maldonado    87   1.  Rapax                   114
2.  Sergio Perez        71   2.  Barwa Addax Team        110
3.  Jules Bianchi       53   3.  ART Grand Prix          101
4.  Daniel Clos         51   4.  Racing Engineering      80
5.  Sam Bird            48   5.  iSport International    79
6.  Oliver Turvey       48   6.  DAMS                    35
7.  Giedo van der Garde 39   7.  Arden International     32
8.  Davide Valsecchi    31   8.  DPR                     28
9.  Christian Vietoris  29   9.  Super Nova Racing       19
10. Charles Pic         28   10. Scuderia Coloni         17
11. Luiz Razia          27   11. Trident Racing          14
12. Jerome D'Ambrosio   21   12. Ocean Racing Technology 11
13. Giacomo Ricci       16
14. Romain Grosjean     14
15. Alvaro Parente      13
16. Michael Herck       12
17. Marcus Ericsson     11
18. Adrian Zaugg         9
19. Fabio Leimer         8
20. Luca Filippi         5
21. Rodolfo Gonzalez     4
22. Alberto Valerio      4
23. Johnny Cecotto Jr.   3
24. Josef Kral           3
25. Max Chilton          3
26. Edoardo Piscopo      2
27. Brendon Hartley      0
28. Ho-Pin Tung          0
29. Vlado Arabadjiev     0
30. Fabrizio Crestani    0
31. James Jakes          0
32. Federico Leo         0
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