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Grosjean wins eventful Valencia feature race

25 June 2011

Romain Grosjean won the Valencia feature race, which proved to be packed with incident and controversy from the start.

To begin with, pole sitter Charles Pic did not even make it round the formation lap before being craned away, a delay that shortened the race distance from 32 to 30 laps. Instead of pole, Pic had to start from pit lane - which, as it turned out, was just as well when a mid-field accident started after Jules Bianchi pinched Marcus Ericsson too tightly into the inside of the sweeping first turn that resulted in contact which saw the two cars skate off the track and into the safety barrier.

Alvaro Parente spun after Fabio Leimer hit the kerbs into turn 2 and made contact with the back of the Carlin, and Stefano Coletti had stalled on the grid, so the clean-up of five cars triggered an immediate safety car appearance. The four drivers who had crashed were declared under post-race investigation, and in the meantime immediate drive-thru penalties were also handed out to Christian Vietoris and Pal Varhaug for jump starts.

At the restart two laps later, Giedo van der Garde leapt away in the lead while Romain Grosjean fended off Dani Clos for second place, while battles further back saw Esteban Gutierrez having to brake hard and flat-spot his tyres to avoid running into the back of Luca Filippi, and Sam Bird almost hit the back of Davide Valsecchi's car immediately behind them.

The mandatory round of pit stops started to cycle through which saw Clos have a poor stop and drop behind Valsecchi who in turn lost a place to Sam Bird in pit lane. Now free of Clos, Grosjean was able to close up van der Garde for the lead, but the Dutchman still had a solid lead of over four seconds before the three leaders came into the pits together at the end of lap 14, van der Garde and Grosjean successfully returning on track into clear air but Filippi having the misfortune to slot in just behind Valsecchi and Clos.

Then more penalties were declared, with Stefano Coletti getting caught speeding in the pit lane and Johnny Cecotto Jr - who has survived a scare when Julian Leal spun next to him while trying an adventurous overtaking move - also getting a penalty for ignoring waved yellow flags on track. Then, sensationally, the race leader was handed the same penalty for the same offence, and van der Garde dropped to fourth place with his crawl through pit lane which gifted the race lead to Grosjean.

There was plenty of action going on down the field, too: Luca Filippi and Dani Clos were jostling for position after that unfortunate pit exit for Filippi, and finally an attempt to pass Clos saw Filippi clip his front wing on the back of the Racing Engineering car and Filippi slid out of the race on lap 15; the incident was declared 'under investigation' but no penalties were handed down during the race. Charles Pic's Barwa Addax had finally given up the ghost on lap 14, while Vietoris spun on lap 16 while trying to overtake Fairuz Fauzy and was also out of the race; Fauzy was also subsequently the victim of a collision with Pal Varhaug in turn 17 with five laps to go. Max Chilton was running up in the points when his Carlin suddenly lost all pace due to gear selection problems and he had to retire seven laps before the end of the race.

All of which led Grosjean, Valsecchi and Clos leading the race ahead of the demoted van der Garde. But van der Garde was clearly indignant and fired up, and proceeded to make short work of Clos for third place as once again the Racing Engineering car proved to have rather short race life and its performance fell off notably in the closing stages of the race, although it still had just enough pace to hold off the squabbling Sam Bird and Luiz Razia for fourth in the final corners.

Valsecchi was an altogether different matter and proved a tough nut for van der Garde to crack with the pair going wheel-to-wheel on multiple occasions in a thrilling battle through the final laps, but finally the pressure told and Valsecchi went in too deep at the hairpin and gave van der Garde the gap he needed to finally go through and claim second place. However it was now far too late in the day for van der Garde to do anything about catching Grosjean, and he had to settle for second as the chequered flag came out.

Esteban Gutierrez survived an early run-off, and Josef Kral managed to wrest a position from Michael Herck with two laps to go, so that the two of them finished in seventh and eighth positions meaning they will form the front row of the sprint race under the reverse grid system.

Full times and positions available.


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