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di Grassi: Was it me or the clutch?

24 June 2009


Lucas di Grassi has admitted that it still trying to work out the cause of the stall at the start of Sunday's GP2 Series sprint race at Silverstone that cost him the chance to close the gap on those leading the championship.

After a frustrating start to the 2009 campaign with reigning drivers' champion Racing Engineering, di Grassi appeared to have got his season back on track by following up his win in Turkey with second place in Silverstone's Saturday feature. However, the momentum stuttered along with his red-and-yellow Dallara as the Brazilian failed to get away from the seventh spot on the grid in the second race of the weekend, ending any hope of adding to his growing points tally.

"The start was a disaster," di Grassi sighed, reflecting on the two attempts at a getaway after Giacomo Ricci caused the first to be aborted, "I stalled, but I am not yet sure if it was my mistake, or if there was a problem with the clutch. We will look into it."

Once away, albeit nearly a lap down on the frontrunners he should have been battling with, the Brazilian was able to run faster than anyone else, even if the damage had already been done.

"The car was really great and I set the fastest lap, but it was too late and I was too far back," he lamented, acknowledging that he was too far down the order to benefit from the bonus point, "The car went really well this weekend and we have a very fast car, [which] will improve a bit more for N├╝rburgring. I am confident - we scored eight points this weekend, which is not perfect, but it's okay."

The mood was a lot brighter after Saturday's feature, which ran after the F1 qualifying session under bright if blustery conditions.

When the lights went off, di Grassi made a very good start from fifth on the grid, passing both Alvaro Parente and Jerome d'Ambrosio to run in third, just behind leaders Romain Grosjean and Alberto Valerio. A lap after the lead changed hands, the Brazilian made his move, pouncing when Grosjean went wide at Stowe and running second until his pit-stop on lap 16.

With the decision taken to change all four tyres on the Fat Burner-sponsored car - as opposed to the mandatory two - di Grassi lost a position to Nico H├╝lkenberg, but quickly closed the gap to the German and put him under permanent pressure until pulling off a passing move on lap 34. Valerio, however, was almost five seconds ahead at that point, but the veteran kept pushing on until, with only two laps to go, he was within touching distance of his countryman.

"I was not 100 per cent happy with the strategy because I think we lost too much time to Valerio and to Nico in the pit-stop," he said after eventually crossing the line 1.2secs shy of a second victory of the season, "I decided to change four [tyres], but in the time [between when] I came in and the time the pit-stop took to be finished, I lost a position to Nico and I was far away from him., so I had to push really hard after the pit-stop to get the time back. I got close to Nico and had a good, clean fight with him, and then, on the last lap, I could get close to Valerio, but it was too late.

"Our tyre management was very good," countered sporting director Thomas Couyotopoulo, "Together with both of the drivers, we had made a decision on their pit-stop strategies before the race, and Lucas knew that he was likely to lose positions during the pit-stop as we agreed on changing four tyres. However, we also knew that this would allow him to push harder during the last laps of the race...."


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