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Pic holds on for lights-to-flag win

28 May 2011

The start of the GP2 sprint race was delayed by 20 minutes because of the big crash late in qualifying involving G2 alumnni Sergio Perez in the Sauber, hitting the barrier coming out of the tunnel which required track staff to spend some time rebuilding before racing could restart.

When the GP2 cars finally lined up on the starting grid, they were already two cars down: Esteban Gutierrez had failed to leave the pits before the pit lane exit was closed, and Pal Varhaug failed to get away at the start of the formation lap. 24 cars faced the green flags as Charles Pic and Max Chilton got the race underway.

Pic's start was slightly sluggish and he was lucky to keep the lead as Chilton's was even slower, while another car further back encountered much worse problems and failed to get away at all - local hero Stefano Coletti's Trident #21 left the Monegasque sitting in the middle of the track, happy not to be collected by anyone streaming past.

That allowed Josef Kral and Romain Grosjean to get fliers and launch themselves into second and third place ahead of Chilton, Kral having a spirited go at Pic for the lead before the Barwa Addax driver managed to find his rhythm and get control of the situation.

Coletti did finally get underway, but far behind the others, and promptly put in a fastest lap as he ran in completely clean air. That distance suddenly disappeared when a safety car came out on lap 3 after Kevin Mirocha had technical problems and ended up parking the Ocean Racing Technology car against the arnco on the left hand side of the start finish straight. Oil was also found on track between turns 1 and 4 which needed cleaning up, and Julian Leal was shown the blank and orange flag to come into the pits for attention, which is where he remained.

The sprint race was also effectively over for Dani Clos, Alvaro Parente, Luiz Razia, Michael Herck and Johnny Cecotto Jr. when they were handed drive-thru penalties for a jump start, while Jules Bianchi topped a dreadful weekend for Lotus ART when he was penalised for passing under the safety car.

Charles Pic had no dramas with the restart on lap 7, but within minutes the safety car was back on track when iSport's Marcus Ericsson slid wide in the swimming pool complex, jumped the kerb and promptly crashed, the car catching on fire as a result. Ericsson himself was okay, but clearly the track needed to go under caution while the fire was put out and the wreck removed.

Racing resumed on lap 11, with Pic having no problems at the front again. Instead it was Romain Grosjean who seemed to have lost some pace during the hiatus in proceedings, struggling with pace and nearly succumbing to Max Chilton, but then quickly picking up again to set the fastest time on lap 14.

Further back there was a gripping battle between Luca Filippi and Fabio Leimer over sixth place, with Filippi seemingly much faster but unable to get the critical track advantage to get by. Filippi was rewarded for his fortitude when ahead of him Davide Valsecchi tried to pass Max Chilton for fourth only to overshoot the chicane and cede the place back to Chilton as well as his own position to Filippi on the run down to Tabac on lap 24; energised by the sudden gain in position, the Super Nova driver carried his momentum into battle with Chilton and finally succeeded on passing him cleanly going into the same chicane three laps later to take fourth place, with Valsecchi also managing the same two laps further on to reclaim fifth position from Chilton before the end.

At the front, though, Charles Pic has calmly piled on the speed as the laps went by and pulled away from the pack, finishing the last lap with a 3.3s over Kral, who was facing a furious challenge from Romain Grosjean who was also doing his level best to claim the extra bonus point for the fatest lap by alternating fast laps with slow ones to give him some track room. In the end the Frenchman couldn't pull off the pass against a determined Kral, and he ran out of time before the chequered flag came out at the end of lap 30 leaving him having to be satisfied with third place after all.

Pic took the flag to take his second win in just over a week for Barwa Addax: "Starting the weekend was tough but we made a good race one, finished eighth and so that means starting from pole in the second race, and we won today, so it's very good!," he enthused at the post-race press conference. "We reacted quite well, very positively, and now we have one month to work very hard and find some new things for Valencia to be stronger and fight for the wins there."

Josef Kral was on the podium for the first time in GP2, and couldn't be more delighted. "It's like a dream!," he said. "Yesterday's race was just holding in place and I finished P6 and I thought okay, I can go for this one, and I finished P2 which is really like a dream! I had a brilliant start from third and I nearly got P1: it was really close! I was just pushing Charles hard for most of the race, the car was brilliant, and in the end Romain was catching me up but he wasn't a problem ... I'm just so happy to finish second here."

For Romain Grosjean it was important to get his GP2 title campaign back on track after a troubled few outings - especially as the championship leader coming into today's race, Sam Bird, finished pointless back in 13th place after a dismal time on the Mediterranean coast for iSport. Ironically the two of them leave Monaco back in the join lead, as they arrived, but now with Charles Pic and Davide Valsecchi breathing right down their necks.

Filippi came fourth ahead of Valsecchi and Chilton after those late overtaking moves, while Leimer was unable to make the same sort of progress and finished outside the points.

The next GP2 race is back in Spain, on the street course at Valencia in three weeks time.

Full race times and positions available.


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