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Bianchi stripped of Barcelona pole

20 May 2011

Lotus ART driver Jules Bianchi came away from qualifying on Friday afternoon happy that his flying lap early in the session had proved unbeatable to everyone who followed - and especially his fellow Frenchman and ongoing GP2 series arch rival, Romain Grosjean, who could only manage fifth place as the track got crowded with traffic.

Unfortunately, it turned out that Bianchi's first early flying lap had been mistimed after all.

It had coincided with a technical failure for Fabio Leimer as he was going through turn 5, and yellow flags came out as the Rapax ground to a halt and had to be retrieved. And it was while the yellow flags were still out that Bianchi went ahead and set the fastest lap of the afternoon, a clear no-no in terms of track safety.

In the post-race stewards' meeting, Bianchi was informed that he had been judged to have ignored the yellow flags in the early stages of the session. His excuse that he improved on his previous time only because that had been an unusually slow out lap was not accepted, and he was duly handed a ten grid position penalty that will see him start from 11th position for Saturday afternoon's feature race.

That means the Dutch driver Giedo van der Garde (Barwa Addax) has been promoted to pole, with Britain's Sam Bird (iSport) starting alongside him on the front row.

Van der Garde's team mate Charles Pic is bumped up to third, and will be joined on the second row by Dams driver Romain Grosjean, who had been disappointed to end up so far back after setting easily the fastest time in the morning practice session, and having started on pole position for the first GP2 race of the year in Turkey two weeks ago.

Grosjean had found the Barcelona track uncomfortably crowded when he had tried to make his qualifying runs. He looked close to rivalling Bianchi's time only to have to lift off in the final sector of his run.

Only Ocean Racing Technology's Kevin Mirocha and Johnny Cecotto Jr. attempted a different strategy, opting to stay in while the others swarmed over the circuit, and coming out during the brief interlude while the rest of the field came in for tyres and to catch their breath before embarking on a late final assault on the timesheets.

As it turned out, this final gold rush was largely wasted as there was effectively no change of position in those final moments, in something of a repeat of what had happened in the morning practice sessions. Dani Clos did improve one position to seventh, and Marcus Ericsson jumped into the top ten in eighths in the final seconds.

The back row of the grid will be an all-Rapax afair: Leimer was not able to play any further part after his first lap glitch, and he's joined at the back by Julian Leal who will have to serve the ten place grid penalty he received for causing an avoidable accident with Coloni's Davide Rigon near the end of the Turkey sprint race that left the Italian with serious leg injuries.

Rigon's replacement this week, 17-year-old AutoGP racer Kevin Ceccon, qualified in 17th position on his d├ębut in GP2. Another substitute driver, Alvaro Parente - sitting in for Christian Vietoris, who is still feeling unwell after a high speed crash at Turkey - qualified in 15h after being a very late call up by Racing Engineering.

Full session times available.


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