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Drivers reflect on Nurburgring fortunes

26 July 2011

Two podiums in two days for championship leader Romain Grosjean have consolidated the Dams driver's hold on the 2011 GP2 Series title, while similar success for Luca Filippi was all the more remarkable given that it came just days after he departed Super Nova and switched to the Coloni team.

"For the championship it's a good result and we're a little bit higher," said Grosjean. "Now we will try to keep our advantage, and maybe increase it a little," he said, adding that next on the agenda was to "think about pole position and winning in Budapest!"

Grosjean's strong performances in this year's GP2 events have certainly caught the eye of Renault F1 team boss Eric Boullier, who agreed that Grosjean was definitely a candidate for a race seat in 2012 if Robert Kubica is unable to return to the team. "We are working hard to get Grosjean [into F1], as France needs a good F1 driver," Boullier said at the weekend.

Grosjean amassed 12pts in total with third place in the Saturday feature race and his sprint race win on Sunday. That extended his lead in the series to 18pts over Giedo van der Garde, who finished sixth in the feature race but then crashed out early in the sprint race after tangling with Dani Clos.

Charles Pic looked set to take advantage of the Dutch driver's problems, but fell foul to a penalty for crossing the pit lane blend line as he came out from changing to slick tyres.

"The stewards, in what was a rigorous decision given the conditions, decided to penalise him for crossing a white line at the pit lane exit," complained the Barwa Addax team in a press release. "With the team looking for some kind of explanation for the penalty they delayed informing the driver and as he hadn't passed through pit lane within the time stipulated, he was black flagged and disqualified. Yet another stroke of bad luck for Charles who had overcome adverse circumstances during the race only to be penalised later."

"The championship I will take race by race," Pic said philosophically. "Try to be there all the time and make as many good results as I can, and we will see at the end."

Instead it was Luca Filippi and Jules Bianchi who broke through after stuttering first halves to their 2011 season, with Bianchi joining Pic, Sam Bird and Davide Valsecchi in a tight fight for third place, the four drivers now comprising a pack in the lower 30s in the points. Filippi is just 6ts off this fight, having amassed 15pts in a single weekend in Germany.

"It was perfect, I'm very happy!" said Filippi of his weekend's work. "It was very important for us because you could see how much it meant for the boys: you could see it in their eyes, and I am so proud and happy that I could present this to them."

His endeavours took Coloni from near the bottom with just a single point in the team championship before the weekend to 7th place with 16pts going to Hungary, demonstrating just how much difference the right driver can make to a GP2 team.

"Until now for them the season wasn't so great," agreed Filippi. "Obviously they were very unlucky when [Davide] Rigon was injured, and [Kevin] Ceccon did a great job but obviously he is a rookie, and once they had a chance to show how they are they did everything perfectly!

"The atmosphere we had before the race was really amazing," he enthused. "All the mechanics were motivated, everybody really wanted a great performance, and I was really able to see in their eyes how much they wanted this victory."

Describing his run to third place in the rain-hit Sunday sprint race, Filippi said: "I'm very glad that we made a perfect strategy, and we were the fastest car on the track: we couldn't overtake because there was only one dry line, but I'm very pleased: the strategy was perfect, and we pitted at exactly the right time."

In stark contrast to Fillipi, Jules Bianchi - who built on his breakthrough success at Silverstone with 10pts this weekend - was visibly downcast on the sprint race podium and seemed to be fixating on the mistake he made on the penultimate lap of that race that cost him the win, which went to Grosjean instead.

"I pushed a bit, I made a mistake in the second last lap at the chicane, and Romain overtook me," he said. "I'm very disappointed because without the mistake I would have won for sure, because it was not possible to overtake.

"It was my mistake today, and that's it: I'm really sorry about that ... I'm just quite disappointed."

Grosjean had been resigned to second place after an early overtaking move on the Lotus ART after the pit stops to switch to slicks had come to nothing.

"[After the pitstops] Jules did a small mistake: I tried to overtake him once but there is only one line so it is quite difficult. Then he did a mistake one lap to the end and I could go for the win: it was great, and the team did a very good job too!" he said. "We are happy with this win, which is important."

Grosjean was no fan of the changing conditions on Sunday, saying that it was "not so much fun, to be honest - particularly when you are second.

"It was a very difficult race," he admitted. "The conditions were very, very tough, nobody had grip so you could see the cars sliding everywhere. It was very difficult, and then my engineer told me it should be raining in ten minutes, so I was keeping the tyres alive - and the rain never came!

"When I got the lead then I had more fun because you can brake to your braking mark: if you miss a little bit or go wide behind Jules I would have hit him. It was always on the edge and a little bit raining, which is the worst for me: I had no idea of the grip on the track, so it was a very difficult race."

Filippi found that for himself at the start of the final lap on Sunday when his attempt to pass Bianchi at turn 1 ended in a collision that could have taken them both out.

"I tried to pass and locked the front," Filippi explained. "[Jules] was there and maybe he could have left me a little bit more room, but to me I have no complaints: we talked after and he understood that there was no bad intentions, he was fine with the contact, and it was okay."

Bianchi was able to continue and secure second place, while Filippi spun but kept the engine running and was able to get back underway still with a comfortable margin over Christian Vietoris in fourth place.

There's little time to reflect further on events at the Nurburgring, as the GP2 convoy hastily moves on to Budapest, Hungary this weekend for the seventh of nine rounds in the 2011 GP2 European championship.

Practice takes place on Friday morning following F1 free practice 1, with qualifying for the feature race taking place on Friday afternoon following F1 free practice 2. The feature race itself is at 2.40pm on Saturday afternoon after F1 qualifying, and the sprint race is on Sunday morning at 9.35am ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Hungary in the afternoon.

After wins at the Nurburgring, Grosjean and Filippi will be keen for more of the same at the Hungaroring, while van der Garde will be hoping to stay out of trouble; Davide Valsecchi will have to overcome a ten place grid penalty for the feature race for causing an accident with Arden's Jolyon Palmer on Sunday; Jules Bianchi will be seeking to atone for his mistake; and Charles Pic will be smarting for vengeance against the injustice of a black flag.


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