Calado rues missed opportunities at Valencia
26 June 2012
"That's racing," said James Calado after an eventful weekend of racing in the GP2 Series on the streets of Valencia, which saw the Lotus GP driver start from pole twice, lead the most laps in both the feature and sprint races, and have a dominant lead in the first - only to have the race win slip out of his hands in both.
It had started so well, with a fine pole position in the Friday qualifying session, on an early lap that most teams had expected to top as the session wore in, grip levels came up and the softer tyre compound came into play. As it turned out, however, no one could equal Calado's effort.
"Pole position was great but a bit unexpected as most of the drivers set their fastest laps with the harder compound," the British driver agreed. "I think it's fair to say that I dominated the weekend from qualifying up to the safety car."
The safety car in question came out for debris on track just before the middle of the Saturday feature race 1. Nothing to do with Calado, but he was by far the biggest loser from it as he was the only driver not to have pitted before then and had been enjoying a huge lead on track.
"It destroyed a 16 or something second gap I opened up," agreed Calado, who was left stuck when it came to strategy: if he'd come in then he would have rejoined dead last, so all he could do was stay out and try to pull out a big enough lead to pit and come out in a reasonable position. Instead, more cautions thwarted even that damage limitation approach.
"There was not one but three safety cars and I still had to make my compulsory pit stop," he said. "We lost a well-deserved win but that's racing."
Calado fought back but only managed to finish in ninth position: in the points, but crucially one place out of the reverse grid for the Sunday sprint race 2. The man in front of him, Davide Valsecchi, would start on pole - until news came down that Valsecchi was to be penalised for overtaking behind the safety car on Saturday. That promoted Calado up to eight, and pole again for Sunday, and a chance to make amends for the lost feature race win.
With no pit stops to trip over in the sprint race, and after managing the multiple restarts behind the safety car to perfection, Calado looked to be on his way to victory. He led all but two laps in the race: Rio Haryanto got the nose of his Carlin ahead for one pass over the starting line mid-race, but then Calado got back in front and stayed there - until virtually the last corner of the race. Then, stuck in a car with worn tyres and collision damage from a late lunge from Haryanto, Calado could no nothing to hold off the more experienced Luiz Razia blasting past in the Arden to claim the win.
"I led most of the race but ran out of tyres at the end," Calado conceded. "We just ran out, because there were too many laps, and even though I was saving them there wasn't enough tyre on the car left at the finish of the race. Towards the end I was losing traction, and couldn't enter or brake or anything.
"[Rio and I] came into the corner side by side, braked late and gave him enough room, a car's width. He locked the brakes, braked late, and crashed into me," he added about the clash with Haryanto. "Fortunately I could go on and this podium is a decent recovery after the disappointment of the first race."
After Haryanto retired and before Razia made his last lap appearance, Calado had had his hands full with Racing Engineering's Fabio Leimer, and used every trick in the book to sweep his Lotus out wide through every corner to ward off the attack.
"It was fun, very, very difficult, but when there's no grip on the car you've got no chance," Calado told the GP2 Media Service. "I think I didn't do anything wrong, it was aggressive racing, but I think it was acceptable."
Calado certainly didn't appear to be holding any grudges or feeling too much disappointment with how things turned out, and if anything just appeared pleased that the races had turned out to be as entertaining and gripping for everyone as they had.
"It was very, very tough, and very entertaining I'm sure!" he said. "But still it was good to get some more points."
Team principal Frederic Vasseur was certainly pleased with how things had turned out for Lotus GP at Valencia, with Calado's team mate Esteban Gutiérrez in a position to pick up the baton from Calado and claim the race win on Saturday, and then seeing Calado himself hang on for second on Sunday after Gutiérrez crashed out on the opening lap.
"On one hand there's the satisfaction of a win and a podium, on the other the frustration for James as he got unlucky," said Vasseur. "We were much faster than the others [in the feature race] and it was good to keep him on track to widen the gap, but the safety car ruined his race because it entered the track when he was in the last corner before making his pit stop.
"He did great with what was not the best set of tyres on Sunday and his podium is well deserved," he added. "Esteban fought hard and well, he was extremely fast and for once he was a bit lucky on Saturday. Bad luck was back on Sunday when he could do nothing to avoid a car that had just crashed into the wall ahead of him."
Next up for Calado is his home event at Silverstone, something he's very much looking forward to.
"Yes - the British round and it will be very exciting," he said. "Great to see all the fans and there is going to be a lot of support for me, so it's going to be one of the better ones, that's for sure!"