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GP2: Vandoorne half a second ahead in practice

Stoffel Vandoorne was once again in impressive form as GP2 action got underway in Barcelona, the ART driver over half a second clear of the field.
There was no stopping Stoffel Vandoorne in Spain on Friday, as the Belgian blitzed the field with a remarkable lap of 1:30.171s to wipe the floor with his competition by over half a second in GP2 practice.

The McLaren test and development driver's time was faster than the Manor Marussia F1 cars had managed in the F1 free practice session earlier in the day, and was only six hundredths of a second off the best time that Pastor Maldonado had managed in the Lotus.

CLICK: Full GP2 practice times from the Circuit de Catalunya

DAMS' Alex Lynn and then Racing Engineering's Alexander Rossi set the early pace in the 45-minute session that got underway at noon in ideal dry and sunny conditions at the 2.892-mile, 16-turn Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona. Rossi's first flying lap clocked in at 1:31.050s to put him a quarter of a second ahead of Lynn's team mate Pierre Gasly in the second DAMS.

With five consecutive pole positions under his belt, it was only a matter of time before Vandoorne moved into gear to go top with a new target time of 1:30.715s in the ART. Gasly also improved his time to stay second ahead of Lazarus' Nathanael Berthon, who had in turn pushed Rossi down to fourth after the first 12 minutes of the practice session.

Mitch Evans briefly went top with a time of 1:30.689s moments after his Russian Time team mate Artem Markelov had a brief and harmless off-track excursion, but it was only seconds before Vandoorne was back on top again. The improving track conditions enabled him to pull out a devastating 0.518s gap over the Kiwi and the rest of the field shortly before the drivers all started to return to pit lane for their mid-session break and set-up tweaks.

Vandoorne returned to the track but was unable to find any extra time. Nor where there any significant improvements from Evans, Rossi, Gasly and Berthon, with Richie Stanaway having to settle for sixth in the Status Grand Prix #23 ahead of Campos Racing's Rio Haryanto and Lynn, who had been pushed down to eighth and was 1.002s off Vandoorne's pace when the chequered flag came out to end the session.

Trident Racing's Raffaele Marciello was ninth on the timesheets having hot-footed it to the GP2 paddock after earlier taking part in the F1 FP 1 session with Sauber, which had seen him finish with a creditable 12th fastest time while sitting in for Marcus Eriksson.

Sergio Canamasas was 18th fastest for MP Motorsports in practice, but he will want to improve on that in qualifying given that he will lose three grid places on Saturday following a penalty picked up at Sakhir during the sprint race.

Norman Nato had an early wake-up call to his weekend when his Arden suffered a technical issue on pit lane just before the start of practice, which meant that he missed the first half of the session and was only able to set the 25th fastest time, two seconds off the formidable flying Vandoorne.

It wasn't all good news for ART, however. Like Nato, Vandoorne's team mate Nobuharu Matsushita was also largely sidelined for the majority of the available practice time, although he did finally get out for a proper run in the final 15 minutes to set the 22nd fastest time.

Worst hit by gremlins was Sergei Sirotkin's Rapax which turned only five laps during practice and was ultimately unable to set a representative time, his best effort still more than 20 seconds off the pace.

In their first GP2 race weekend of the season after being forced to skip the 2015 opener in Bahrain, Hilmer Motorsports saw lead driver Johnny Cecotto Jr. finish practice in 14th place while his new rookie team mate Nick Yelloly was 23rd fastest as he got used to his new office after upgrading from the GP3 package he raced in 2014.

Next up will be qualifying, which starts at 3.55pm (2.55pm BST) and will set the grid for the start of the 37-lap feature race on Saturday at 3.40pm (2.40pm BST). The shorter 26-lap sprint race will get the green flag on Sunday morning at 10.35am (9.35am).

This weekend also sees the first round of the GP3 Series with practice on Friday evening at 5.50pm (4.50pm BST), qualifying on Saturday morning at 9.45am (8.45am BST) and the first 22-lap race later in the day at 5.20pm (4.20pm BST). The Sunday race will consist of 17 laps and will get underway at 9.25am (8.25am BST).

See full GP2 practice times from the Circuit de Catalunya

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL, ART Grand Prix) during practice at Bahrain International Circuit on Friday 4 April 2014. (World Copyright: Alastair Staley/LAT Photographic.)
2015 GP2 Series Round 2. Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain. Friday 8 May 2015. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL, ART Grand Prix). Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.
Luca Ghiotto - Trident Racing [credit: GP2 Series]
Luca Ghiotto - Trident Racing [credit: GP2 Series]
Antonio Giovinazzi - Prema Racing [credit: GP2 Series]
Antonio Giovinazzi - Prema Racing [credit: GP2 Series]
Pierre Gasly - PREMA Racing
Antonio Giovinazzi - Prema Racing [credit: GP2 Series]
Pierre Gasly - PREMA Racing
Antonio Giovinazzi - Prema Racing
Sergio Canamasas - Carlin
Alex Lynn - DAMS
Alex Lynn - DAMS
Sergey Sirotkin - ART Grand Prix
Sergey Sirotkin - ART Grand Prix
Sergey Sirotkin - ART Grand Prix
Pierre Gasly - Prema Racing
Norman Nato - Racing Engineering

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