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Razia on top after Silverstone sprint win

8 July 2012

Arden's Luiz Razia consolidated the lead he'd taken in the GP2 Series drivers championship after the previous day's feature race by going on to win the Sunday sprint event, just ahead of his main title rival Davide Valsecchi in the DAMS.

All the drivers had been relieved to find conditions at Silverstone much improved after the drenching they'd taken in the delayed Saturday outing. Although the skies were skill grey and the track still had some wet and damp patches, everyone was able to start on dry tyres, with most going for the harder compound in order to be sure to be able to complete the 21-lap race distance.

Polesitter Giedo van der Garde got off to a good start in the Caterham as the lights went out, while Valsecchi was sluggish getting away from second and lost out to his team mate Felipe Nasr in the run down to Abbey. The best start of all came from Johnny Cecotto Jr. off seventh spot on the grid, but his lightning strike was thwarted when he found himself boxed in by the battling DAMS duo ahead and Luiz Razia to the side and so he had to settle for slotting into fifth place ahead of Nigel Melker.

Valsecchi seemed to be having trouble getting his tyres to activate that the others, and lost third place to Razia down the Hanger Straight with Razia finally clinching the deal run through Stowe. Valsecchi's momentum was affected and he briefly lost a further place to Cecotto through Brooklands, while up ahead Razia was on a tear and over the course of the next lap roared past first Nasr and then went side by side with van der Garde for the lead.

The Arden had his nose ahead on the run down to Vale, where there were yellow flags out for an earlier incident between Trident's Stephane Richelmi and Arden's Simon Trummer that had also caught up Coloni's Stefano Coletti and iSport's Marcus Ericsson, ultimately leaving Richelmi and Coletti beached in the gravel and triggering the local waved yellow flags that meant that - when the leaders came around on lap 2 - van der Garde was forced to to concede the position, and the lead was Razia's.

Van der Garde quickly succumbed to Nasr who seemed the only driver at this stage with the pace to take the fight to the race leader. He closed right up to the back of the Arden but could find now way past, his best chance coming on lap 8 when he had a half chance down the inside at Village but then locked up his brakes and couldn't prevent Razia immediately taking the lead back from him. Razia would never be deposed from the front again during the race.

Meanwhile, Valsecchi's car was now waking up and he was able to make quick work of the rapidly waning van der Garde and close the gap to Nasr. By lap 15 it was clear that Nasr has shot his tyres early and was now comparatively off the pace, making it easy for Valsecchi to exercise his "team mate's excuse me" prerogative and slip by into second place on the run into Club. But by now Razia was far too safe in front, and Valsecchi was experienced enough to know that it was all about bringing the DAMS home safely in second place with Nasr in third to maximise the points available and live to fight the championship battle another day. Safe from attack from Nasr behind him, Valsecchi backed off, allowing Razia to build up a 5.6s comfort zone by the time the Arden crossed the finish line.

But while the podium positions had been decided, there was plenty of action developing further back. By the mid-point of the race, darkening skies led to some drizzle and brief light showers sweeping through Silverstone, which seemed to help wake up the till-then dormant potential of Esteban Gutiérrez in the Lotus and Jolyon Palmer in the iSport. The two made quick work of the duelling Carlin cars of Max Chilton and Rio Haryanto to join the train that was rapidly forming behind van der Garde, now patently struggling with graining on his tyres. Gutiérrez was the quickest to thread his way through the traffic jam, and was rewarded by the clear space ahead of him to stretch his legs and hunt down Cecotto for what turned into a fierce extended battle between the two over fourth place.

Gutiérrez finally took the position through Club at the end of lap 19 and looked poised to pounce on Nasr for that final podium position after all, only to then run wide and lock up his brakes when trying a premature move on the DAMS and handing back that hard-won fourth place to Cecotto in the process. Gutiérrez was furious with himself and was determined to make amends, and just as Razia was taking the chequered flag up ahead he went side-by-side with Cecotto on the last run through Stowe, only to find himself forced wide and off the track by the Barwa Addax. Gutiérrez tried to tough it out and kept his foot down as he made his way back onto the tarmac, but the transition over the damp curbs twisted the car savagely to the right: while Gutiérrez saved the Lotus itself, he slammed hard into the side of Cecotto's car, sending the Venezuelan careering off the other side, blasting through the polystyrene advertising hoardings, through the gravel trap and into the water-filled tyre barrier.

Gutiérrez limped across the finish line in fourth place with a broken front wing, and was likely surprised when he was allowed to keep the position after the inevitable post-race stewards inquiry into his collision with Cecotto. Not that Gutiérrez got away with it entirely: he will have a ten-place grid penalty to serve at the next race in Hockenheim in two weeks for causing an avoidable collision, as will his Lotus team mate James Calado who blotted what had been a superb charge through the field from last place on the grid by spinning out after running into Max Chilton on the penultimate lap.

Razia's race win ekes out his lead in the GP2 Series drivers championship to 6pts, with Gutiérrez some way back in third place and James Calado now tied with Max Chilton for fourth place.

Full sprint race results available.
Full GP2 Series championship standings available.


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