Petrov picks up Pantano's pieces in Valencia
1 January 1901
Vitaly Petrov claimed the first international race victory on the new 'street' circuit in Valencia, but only after having to play second fiddle to a rampant Giorgio Pantano until the last of the 34 scheduled laps.
Pantano had made the most of his hard-earned pole position to pull out an immediate gap as the group behind, led by the fast-starting Petrov, who passed Pastor Maldonado off the line. Although his progress was delayed by a safety car called to clear first lap incidents involving Ho-Pin Tung, Kamui Kobayashi and Racing Engineering Javier Villa, Pantano was quickly back down to business, extending his lead over the next few laps.
While the Italian veteran pulled away, Petrov did all he could to keep Maldonado behind him, while Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna gave chase. Andi Zuber, having swapped places with Grosjean on lap one, held station in sixth before following Senna in for his mandatory pit-stop on lap ten.
Grosjean and Petrov had also pitted by the time Pantano was called in for his stop by Racing Engineering on lap 14 and, like the Russian, the points leader emerged with a clear track ahead of him. Unencumbered by traffic, Pantano was able to re-establish his commanding position at the front of the field, while Petrov gave what appeared to be vain chase.
Maldonado, meanwhile, emerged in fifth place - the field being temporarily headed by the late-stopping Lucas di Grassi - after both Petrov and Grosjean managed to squeeze between him and Pantano, but was quickly on the Frenchman's case. Senna was a place further back, trying to make the best of an eighth place start that had at least allowed him to vault Zuber just before the safety car appeared on lap one.
The Brazilian gave notice of just how tricky the new surface around Valencia's Americas Cup port could be, however, his iSport entry oversteering exiting turn two and almost pitching him into the wall. Senna survived, but had lost time to Maldonado ahead of him and found himself circulating in something of a no man's land, especially after the chasing Zuber spun out in simialr fashion with eight laps to go.
Further back, the chasing Jerome d'Ambrosio had his hands full, first with Alvaro Parente and, once the Portuguese found a way through, with Lucas di Grassi, while Arden twins Sebastien Buemi and Luca Filippi kept hoping for problems in the top eight so that they may grab some points.
Zuber's demise promoted di Grassi into the points in what was his 50th GP2 Series start, and Parente's exit a lap from home improved the Brazilian's lot a little more - but nothing could have prepared the Campos driver for a wild last lap.
His team-mate was the main beneficiary, and must have sensed that something was up as he homed in on Pantano over the final lap. From appearing to have the race in his pocket, the Italian suddenly slowed to a crawl, allowing Petrov to pass with ease en route to his first win of the year - and his second in Valencia after his success at the 2007 finale at the nearby Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
Maldonado, having overcome Grosjean for what appeared to be third place at the second time of asking six laps previously, came through to inherit the second step of the podium, with Grosjean accepting a top three finish that he seemed to have thrown away by not believing the Venezuelan would try to repeat his final corner passing antics.
Senna should have been next up, the chance to take another massive bit out of Pantano's points lead on the cards but, incredibly, as he passed the Italian's stricken car, it was clear that something similar was amiss with the iSport machine.
The following d'Ambrosio and di Grassi went either side of the slowing Brazilian, with the veteran getting the better of the deal, grabbing the inside line for the final corner and fourth place, while Buemi and Andy Soucek also got through with time to spare.
Unlike Pantano, Senna was able to keep his momentum, trickling towards the line but, just as pole position for Sunday's sprint race appeared a possibility, up popped Filippi to deny the Brazilian.
Pantano's failure to finish not only robbed the Italian of ten points, but also any shot at salvaging the bonus for fastest lap, and he will also have to start well down the order as the tail-enders stole past him.
Backmarker Carlos Iaconelli pulled up in front of Senna, the Brazilian having parked once he had crossed the line, and appeared to have run into similar problems, while d'Ambrosio had appeared to slow as he and di Grassi raced to the line. Fuel problems were immediately suggested, and both Racing Engineering and iSport all but confirmed that they had miscalculated the consumption required for the new venue.
Despite their misfortune, Pantano and Senna continue to head the championship, the Italian nine points clear courtesy of his pole position bonus. di Grassi may have his title aspirations reawakened by fourth place, but knows that he - and the rest - won't be gifted another result like that which came their way on Saturday.