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Carlin overcomes Palmer's stall for strong start
28 March 2013
Carlin didn't get off to a great start in the first sprint race of the 2013 GP2 Series season at Sepang International Circuit on Sunday, when Jolyon Palmer stalled even before the formation lap and threw away a hard-won third place starting grid position in the process.
Instead, Palmer had to start the 21-lap sprint from the pit lane at the back of the field. With nothing to lose, the 22-year-old British racer put his foot down and proved the star of the race as he made his way up from 25th to ninth place, just narrowly missing out on a points finish when he ran out of time to hunt down and overtake Rene Binder for eighth.
"We know that Jolyon could have been fighting for the win," said team boss Trevor Carlin, ruing his driver's pre-race stall. "He must take the award for most overtaking manoeuvres this weekend, but unfortunately it wasn't quite enough to take the final point."
Palmer had already shown strong form on the Saturday, when he'd had to compensate for a troubled qualifying session that left him starting from 22nd place and managed to finish in the points in an impressive sixth place by the end of the 31-lap feature event, despite being used early in the race as a launching ramp by Marcus Ericsson's DAMS.
“I made a great start and had a good first two laps and then I just focused on pushing as hard as possible," said Palmer of that outing. "We had a good strategy and the pit stop was perfect."
It was a somewhat more consistent performance for Palmer's team mate Felipe Nasr, however, who finished in the top four in both races and contributed the lion's share of Carlin's points won in Malaysia.
The 20-year-old Brazilian secured third place on the feature grid after Friday's qualifying session, but was caught out at the beginning of Saturday's race by Racing Engineering's Fabio Leimer absolutely nailing the start and punching his way right through the middle of Nasr and ART's James Calado ahead of him. That left Nasr circulating in fourth place which is where he finished the race, frustratingly one foot off the podium.
“I had a difficult first lap,” admitted Nasr, "There were a lot of cars making very aggressive moves and it would have been easy to make contact and crash out of the race.
"After the first lap I concentrated on my tyres," he added. "I was very quick at the end but left my challenge a little late but we had the pace to win."
That left him starting from the third row of the reverse grid for Sunday's sprint race. Although initially overtaken by Rapax driver Stefano Coletti and Racing Engineering's Juliàn Leal, Nasr crucially kept himself out of the first lap accident sparked by Calado hitting the back of Leimer and taking out Leal and Sam Bird at turn 4 to emerge in third place.
That subsequently became second place when he and Coletti soon managed to pass polesitter Stéphane Richelmi, and Nasr held on to the position for the rest of the race to finally make it onto the podium.
"My aim was to stay close at the start but look after the tyres so I could attack at the end," said Nasr after the finish. "That's what I did but Stefano just had enough to keep the lead. It's a good result though and with two good races this weekend we take away strong points which is important for the championship."
"A case of mixed emotions for the team today," admitted Trevor Carlin as the team packed up and prepared to ship out of Sepang at the end of Sunday. "We're delighted with Felipe's performance to take our first podium of the season, but we know that Jolyon could have been fighting for the win.
"Both Felipe and Jolyon can go to Bahrain happy with the speed they've shown and the team should be proud that the hard work over the winter season is paying off," he added.
The second race weekend of the 2013 GP2 Series season will be at Sakhir International Circuit in Bahrain on April 19-21. Carlin go into Round 2 with 32pts in the team championship putting them in third place just three points behind Racing Engineering, with Rapax currently in the lead.
In the driver standings, Nasr is in third place with 24pts just one adrift of Fabio Leimer, while Stefano Coletti has a further 11pts on them thanks to his double podium finish in Malaysia.
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