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Calado narrowly wins Valencia pole over Nasr

22 June 2012

A much brighter and sunnier afternoon awaited the GP2 teams for Friday afternoon qualifying, with blue skies replacing the overcast conditions that had prevailed for the morning practice sessions. Even the blustery gales of the morning had abated somewhat to a fresh breeze in time for the half hour session.

Davide Valsecchi was first out on track and almost alone in committing to the super soft option tyres from the very start, but his first qualifying lap was thwarted when Giancarlo Serenelli spun his Venezuela GP Lazarus car in turn 8 just before the bridge, bringing out a red flag just five minutes into the session. Unlike the morning practice, the clock did not carry on ticking this time meaning that there remained 25 minutes to go once track activity resumed.

Valsecchi was able to get a qualifying lap of 1:47.638s in this time but he was slightly held up by the slower Daniƫl de Jong in the Rapax in the process and was quickly pipped first bu Lotus GP's Esteban Gutierrez, then by Valsecchi's own DAMS team mate Felpe Nasr with a time of 1:47.349s.

Gutierrez' team mate James Calado then went to the top of the timesheets at the midway point by just seven thousandths of a second over Nasr with a lap of 1:47.342s, while Giedo van der Garde also put in a good lap a tenth faster than Valsecchi to push the DAMS driver down to fifth - the Italian's gamble to go on the supersoft options from the start seemingly having misfired. Even opting to stay out on a clear track when everyone else came in for the usual mid-session tyre change didn't help, although he did at least manage to creep back in front of van der Garde for fourth.

Carlin's Max Chilton led the cars out on track for the second half of the session and was now on the supersoft option tyres, but he could only manage sixth place on his opening run as he closed up on the back of Ocean Racing's Victor Guerin. That put Chilton just ahead of Racing Engineering's Fabio Leimer, but otherwise it seemed that few drivers were able to go faster on the softer compound - the timing screens were miserly in handing out any green sectors let alone purple ones for the final ten minutes.

Did that mean the prime tyres were now the ones to be out on? If so, that would hand back the momentum back in Valsecchi's favour, since he had now handed in his sole set of supersofts after the earlier run. He was certainly going for it, but then came up on the back of a dawdling Rodolfo Gonzalez and Fabio Crestani who were having a slow-speed spat all of their own seemingly oblivious to faster cars - and Valsecchi's chance was gone.

That left Calado's early flying lap on the prime tyres as the best time of the session, which was just as well as his later run on supersoft tyres ended with a spin out of turn 6 with five minutes remaining. Fortunately the Lotus didn't hit anyone or anything in the process and kept the engine running; he was able to recover the car without bringing out a red flag - although he did appear to run the wrong way down the road for a brief period in doing so, if the stewards are in a particularly harsh frame of mind.

Assuming Calado doesn't hit any problems for his late session manoeuvre, he will start on pole position with Felipe Nasr. Their more experienced team mates Esteban Gutierrez and Davide Valsecchi will start on the second row behind them.

The 30-lap feature race takes place on Saturday afternoon at 2.40pm after qualifying for the F1 Grand Prix of Europe. The 23-lap sprint race is scheduled to start on Sunday morning at 9.35am.

See full qualifying session times.


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