Edoardo Mortara admits that he feared having his maiden GP2 Series victory taken away from him as he spotted Barcelona feature race winner Romain Grosjean homing in on his Arden entry.
The Italian lined up third on the grid following sixth place in Saturday's race, and made a great start to beat polesitter - and new GP2 Asia Series champion - Kamui Kobayashi and fellow front row starter Geido van der Garde into the first corner. Once ahead, he had few rivals, but knew that Grosjean - who had worked his way through from the outside of row four - had the potential to end his dream.
Despite coming under pressure, however, Mortara kept his nerve and produced a mature performance that belied his limited GP2 experience to eventually take the chequered flag by 1.251secs, netting the bonus point for fastest lap along the way to slot into second place in the standings behind Grosjean.
"When I got into parc ferme
, I could not believe I did it," Mortara admitted, "It was a tough race. When you are leading, and I've been in this position other times, it is always difficult. I knew that the easiest way for me to win was to make a gap between first and second, but I also had to look after my tyres.
"Kobayashi didn't get a great start, but van der Garde made a good start like me and we were side-by-side [before] I really attacked on the brakes at the first corner and got the lead. Then, when I saw Grosjean in my mirrors, I thought 'sh*t, now it's going to be difficult'. I thought I maybe had a ten per cent chance to beat him because he's been the fastest guy all weekend but, if I pushed like crazy, I could create a gap.
"I put in my best laps of the race and saw that I could hold him. I made one stupid mistake in the chicane that allowed him to get close, but that was the only mistake I made in the race. For him to come back was then difficult. When you follow somebody very closely you can destroy your tyres and that's what happened to him in the end."
Mortara had already opened his 'summer series' account in race one, improving six positions on his grid slot to finishing in sixth place, despite having been forced off the road at the second corner and actually having to make up more ground. The combination of an early pit-stop, a succession of quick laps and some inspired overtaking moves saw 'Edo' sitting well within the points after all the pit-stops had played out, but still had to battle both Lucas di Grassi and Pastor Maldonado before the flag.
"The start was not so bad and, when I arrived at the first corner I braked early and wanted to accelerate, but I got squeezed in the second corner and went too wide and hit the dust," he revealed, "I exited on the Astroturf, jumped in the air, but was able to continue with no damage.
"I pushed like hell and over the next few laps I made a lot of overtaking moves, and the team called me in for an early pit-stop that allowed me to finish where I did. The team did an incredible job and I pushed like crazy, but I knew we had good pace because I could sometimes see Grosjean and started catching him, which was a good sign.
"The last laps were really difficult because we made an early pit-stop and the tyres were pretty much destroyed at the end -it was a difficult situation. di Grassi was even slower than me and I think he had a problem with his brakes, locking up, but I couldn't really overtake him because I couldn't do the last corner flat and he could. Each time he would pull out a bit on the straight and I couldn't get close. Then Maldonado got past me, and passed di Grassi, which allowed me to take di Grassi too."
Despite his success, however, Mortara knows that there are still areas that he can work on in coming rounds.
"We showed we have good pace, and it's a great result, but we have to keep our feet on the ground," he insisted, "I need to improve my qualifying and continue to work with the team. They did a really brilliant job this weekend. The car was competitive all weekend and I'm really happy because it was an incredible result for the first race. Now we just have to qualify better and do a better first lap because I think we have the pace. We showed that today, and I'm sure it will come. I think Grosjean is a step above the others, and we're not frontrunners yet, but I think we will be this season."