Marco Bonanomi snatched the maiden victory of his GP2 career in the final race of the inaugural Asia Series in Dubai this weekend, stealing the lead on the second lap of the race and never looking back as he sped away to an extremely popular triumph.
There was perhaps even greater joy, however, for Arden rival Sébastien Buemi, who in coming home just half a second behind in second place cemented the runner-up spot in the drivers' standings at the expense of Vitaly Petrov, whose brave effort was stopped in its tracks on lap 18 when he was forced to retire with fuel pressure problems, just five laps from the chequered flag.
Following a remarkably clean start in the last sprint race of the season, Milos Pavlovic retained the lead from pole position, but further around the opening lap the luckless Serbian had to pull off with oil pressure woes, leaving Jérôme d'Ambrosio at the head of the field. However, neither Bonanomi nor Buemi were wasting much time from third and seventh spots on the grid respectively, as both found a way past the DAMS machine on lap two.
The Piquet Sports ace then proceeded to pull away, as behind the three leaders Trident Racing's Ho-Pin Tung tried to resist Petrov's attacks, the Russian well aware that with the positions as they were, Buemi – rather than he – was on-course for the runner-up spot in the title chase.
The safety car was deployed on lap five as a result of a crash involving the two DPR cars of Diego Nunes and Armaan Ebrahim, along with Alberto Valerio (Durango) and Ben Hanley (Campos). Whilst at the re-start Bonanomi impeccably held onto his advantage, Buemi ran wide and surrendered second place to d'Ambrosio, though the Swiss would soon regain the spot, taking Petrov through with him for good measure. What promised to be a great battle between the two vice-championship protagonists would fizzle out prematurely, however, after the Campos star's fuel pressure woes intervened to decide the outcome there and then.
Bonanomi went on to resist a late charge from Buemi for glory, with d'Ambrosio sealing third position for his second rostum finish of the campaign. Davide Valsecchi, Yelmer Buurman and Fairuz Fauzy completed the top six point-scorers, with Buemi and Buurman's results seeing Arden take second spot in the team's championship, behind ART Grand Prix and ahead of Campos.
“It's a perfect day!” enthused the elated race-winner afterwards. “I had some problems yesterday at the start, but not today. After I took the lead, I just pushed really hard.
“Sébastien was faster than me at the end, but I managed to keep him in-check. What a great way to end the championship!”
“I wanted to win so much today,” revealed Buemi. “I had a great start, but then I had problems with my front left tyre. Therefore, I tried to use the rear tyres as much as possible.
“I'm really pleased with this result – the beginning of the season was so difficult on us and we worked really hard to fix the problems. I'm delighted to be vice-champion and I can't wait for the GP2 Series to start!”
“I went a little bit wide in turn six in the first lap,” confessed third-placed d'Ambrosio, “and I went onto the dirty part of the track. That's how Marco and Sébastien overtook me. Then I had a good re-start, but I wasn't quick enough. This second podium is a great result for a rookie like me, though; this is a tough championship, and if we keep on working like this things look promising for the GP2 Series.”
To see the sprint race results in full, click here