The 2012 GP2 Series continued on its merry way in Spain, with two races at the Circuit de Catalunya that saw some fairly processional racing, and two of Davide Valsecchi's expected title rivals re-igniting their championship challenges.
Practice and Qualifying
The single GP2 practice session at the Barcelona track was topped narrowly by returning Czech driver Josef Kral, who was back in at Addax for the weekend after missing the two Bahrain races where he was replaced by HRT F1 reserve driver Dani Clos.
Kral ended the session just 0.059s ahead of Lotus GP's James Calado, with DAMS driver Felipe Nasr in third and Caterham driver Giedo van der Garde fourth. It was a circumspect session for the championship frontrunners, with points leader Davide Valsecchi down in 6th for DAMS, Luiz Razia 10th for Arden and Esteban Gutierrez only 18th for Lotus.
The Friday afternoon qualifying session saw all the excitement come from the first few minutes, with most drivers immediately hitting the track to use the best of their single set of soft tyres for their one-shot qualifying run.
With the soft Pirelli so much quicker than the hard prime compound, qualifying then effectively became a one-lap shootout, resulting in Calado securing his first-ever feature race pole position in his Lotus machine, the Brit ending up over two tenths of a second clear of anyone else.
Fabio Leimer (Racing Engineering) took the other front row slot, with the minor chaos allowing Trident Racing driver Stephane Richelmi to take fourth place for the only one of GP2's 13 teams still to score a point in the championship, ahead of Carlin's Max Chilton.
Van der Garde took fifth place, ahead of Coloni's Fabio Onidi, while Valsecchi was only seventh fastest ahead of the second Coloni car of Stefano Coletti. Despite his slightly poor result, the championship leader was still ahead of Gutierrez (11th) and Razia (13th).
Practice top man Kral left his soft tyre run until late on in the session, but the gamble failed to pay off and he was only 16th.
|GP2 Series. Spain.|
|Leading Qualifying Times.|
|1||James Calado (Gbr)||Lotus GP||1:30.655|
|2||Fabio Leimer (Swi)||Racing Engineering||1:30.865|
|3||Stephane Richelmi (Mon)||Trident Racing||1:30.902|
|4||Max Chilton (Gbr)||Marussia Carlin GP2||1:30.962|
|5||Giedo van der Garde (Ned)||Caterham Racing||1:31.006|
|6||Fabio Onidi (Ita)||Scuderia Coloni||1:31.167|
|7||Davide Valsecchi (Ita)||DAMS||1:31.212|
|8||Stefano Coletti (Ita)||Scuderia Coloni||1:31.212|
|9||Jolyon Palmer (Gbr)||iSport International||1:31.269|
|10||Nathanael Berthon (Fra)||Racing Engineering||1:31.308|
|11||Esteban Gutierrez (Mex)||Lotus GP||1:31.320|
|12||Nigel Melker (Ned)||Ocean Racing Technology||1:31.332|
So far in the 2012 season, Giedo van der Garde had been the standout member of the pre-season title favourites to have flattered to deceive. Despite a podium in round five, he came into the Barcelona weekend already some 76 points off Valsecchi's championship lead.
But the Dutchman went some way to rekindling his dwindling title hopes in the feature race at the Circuit de Catalunya, utilising the rarely-seen GP2 pit strategy option to jump into the lead of the race.
Having trailed front row men Calado and Leimer through the first phase of the race, the Caterham squad opted to only change the rear tyres on his Dallara machine, while Calado and Leimer both opted for a full four-tyre change.
That gamble left van der Garde in the lead as the mandatory stops shook out, and although those watching may have expected the fresher rubber of the duo behind him to pay dividends in the latter stages of the race, the Dutchman was able to hold on to victory by 0.8 seconds from the Lotus driver.
Leimer's own challenge was ended shortly after his stop, when he picked up a drive-through penalty from the race stewards after being released unsafely after his stop, the Swiss driver emerging from his pit box alongside Calado, and driving side-by-side with him down the length of the pits.
With Leimer dropping down the order and only recovering to 12th by the end of the race, Coletti inherited third place, the Italian having made a lightning start from 8th on the grid to take fourth on the opening lap, while Valsecchi finished fourth having run fifth before Leimer's penalty, in what was a largely processional race.
French driver Nathanael Berthon finished fifth in the sister car to Leimer at Racing Engineering, ahead of Onidi and Chilton, while Razia made up for his poor qualifying effort by taking eighth place and pole for Sunday's reverse grid sprint race.
The points scorers were completed by iSport's Jolyon Palmer and the strangely anonymous Gutierrez, while qualifying star Richelmi fell back in the race itself to finish 21st.
|GP2 Series. Spain.|
|Feature Race Result.|
|1||Giedo van der Garde (Ned)||Caterham Racing||1:00:22.966|
|2||James Calado (Gbr)||Lotus GP||+0.878|
|3||Stefano Coletti (Ita)||Scuderia Coloni||+3.811|
|4||Davide Valsecchi (Ita)||DAMS||+11.859|
|5||Nathanael Berthon (Fra)||Racing Engineering||+15.795|
|6||Fabio Onidi (Ita)||Scuderia Coloni||+19.379|
|7||Max Chilton (Gbr)||Carlin||+19.768|
|8||Luiz Razia (Bra)||Arden International||+20.072|
|9||Jolyon Palmer (Gbr)||iSport International||+27.624|
|10||Esteban Gutierrez (Mex)||Lotus GP||+36.653|
|11||Felipe Nasr (Bra)||DAMS||+45.264|
|12||Fabio Leimer (Swi)||Racing Engineering||+46.534|
Having sealed the reverse grid pole with eighth place on Saturday, Razia then controlled the whole of Sunday's sprint race to take his second victory of the season and keep pace with Valsecchi in the championship standings.
The Brazilian kept the lead off the line and withstood some not insignificant pressure from the fast-starting Berthon, who jumped up from the second row of the grid at the start, before easing away as the Racing Engineering driver's tyres fell away in the closing stages.
Berthon then fell back into the clutches of Valsecchi, who had jumped up to third on the opening lap and remained there throughout the rest of the race, but the Italian ran out of time to make a telling pass and had to settle for the final podium spot.
Calado moved up to fourth with one of the few passes in a relatively incident-free race when he passed Chilton on lap five, with the Carlin man then settling for a quiet fifth place ahead of van der Garde and Gutierrez.
Coletti took the final point in eighth place, while Palmer again failed to take the start of a race in 2012 when he stopped on the warm-up lap. The issue caused the team to confirm that they would prepare a new chassis for the British driver for the next round.
The GP2 Series now moves on to Monaco in two weeks time, with the championship already looking like becoming a two-horse race. Valsecchi leads Razia by 15 points, with third placed man Calado now some 60 points off the lead.
|GP2 Series. Spain.|
|Sprint Race Result.|
|1||Luiz Razia (Bra)||Arden International||40:08.411|
|2||Nathanael Berthon (Fra)||Racing Engineering||+5.256|
|3||Davide Valsecchi (Ita)||DAMS||+5.897|
|4||James Calado (Gbr)||Lotus GP||+6.575|
|5||Max Chilton (Gbr)||Carlin||+13.117|
|6||Giedo van der Garde (Ned)||Caterham Racing||+14.362|
|7||Esteban Gutierrez (Mex)||Lotus GP||+14.874|
|8||Stefano Coletti (Ita)||Scuderia Coloni||+19.223|
|9||Felipe Nasr (Bra)||DAMS||+19.703|
|10||Fabrizio Crestani (Ita)||Venezuela GP Lazarus||+21.570|
|11||Fabio Leimer (Swi)||Racing Engineering||+22.852|
|12||Tom Dillmann (Fra)||Rapax||+23.312|
Drivers Championship after round 8 of 24 -
1 Valsecchi 129pts, 2 Razia 104pts, 3 Calado 69pts, 4 van der Garde 60pts, 5 Gutierrez 59pts, 6 Chilton 57pts, 7 Leimer 41pts, 8 Nasr 28pts, 9 Dillmann 27pts, 10 Coletti 26pts, 11 Berthon 23pts, 12 Rio Haryanto 16pts, 13 Onidi 12pts, 14 Marcus Ericsson 8pts, 15 Palmer 4pts, 16 Johnny Cecotto Jr 2pts, 17 Simon Trummer, Crestani, Brendon Hartley 1pt.
Teams Championship after round 8 of 24 -
1 DAMS 157pts, 2 Lotus GP 128pts, 3 Arden International 105pts, 4 Carlin 73pts, 5 Racing Engineering 64pts, 6 Caterham Racing 60pts, 7 Scuderia Coloni 38pts, 8 Rapax 27pts, 9 iSport International 12pts, 10 Barwa Addax Team 2pts, 11 Venezuela GP Lazarus, Ocean Racing Technology 1pt.
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