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Gutiérrez eases to Hungary sprint win

29 July 2012

Massive overnight thunderstorms passing over Budapest had given the Hungaroring a thorough drenching first thing and completely changed the nature of the circuit, as the GP3 field had been the first to discover in their early morning race dominated by managing the switch over from wet to slick tyres midway through as the track rapidly dried under blue skies.

Antonio Felix da Costa had proved the master of the moment, adding a second win to his weekend tally for Carlin, and with the team's driver Max Chilton also victorious in the GP2 feature race on Saturday all eyes were watching to see if the squad could clinch a clean sweep across the two series in Hungary by also claiming the GP2 sprint race win - as well as seeing whether there would be any more rainstorms making their presence known during the session.

Conditions were unequivocally dry and sunny for the start of the 28-lap Sunday sprint race 2, which saw Chilton back in eighth position on the grid alongside DAMS' Davide Valsecchi under the reversed grid rule that meant the front row consisted of pole man Esteban Gutiérrez in the Lotus GP and Nathanael Berthon for Racing Engineering.

The pair duly slotted into first and second as the lights went out ahead of Caterham's Giedo van der Garde, while Luiz Razia was also able to smoothly cruise round the outside of iSport's Jolyon Palmer in turn 2 for fourth place. Razia was soon all over the back of the Caterham for his next scalp, despite van der Garde being one of only two cars to go for the supersofts for the race - the other being Max Chilton.

Further back, Lotus GP's James Calado had another poor getaway at the lights and dropped two places from fifth on the grid, while there was a flier from Felipe Nasr in the DAMS - starting from the back row of the grid after Saturday's mid-race brake failure - and a decent number of positions gained for Trident's Julian Leal in the midfield. But Palmer's iSport team mate Marcus Ericsson proved the first casualty of the day, with damage to his front left wheel after lap 1 causing him to coast to a halt after contact with Coloni's Fabio Onidi.

Onidi's team mate Stefano Coletti meanwhile had some strong early pace as he surged up to seventh place by passing James Calado and then Max Chilton in the opening laps and started to bear down on Valsecchi for sixth. Calado was soon recovering from his poor start and challenging Chilton for position - including one attempt into turn 1 on lap 15 that almost cost him his own position to Rio Haryanto when it didn't work out - just as Palmer was now on form and glued to the back of Luiz Razia's Arden, but for the post part the positions had now stabilised and the cars playing follow-my-leader waiting for opportunities to present themselves later in the race when tyre wear became the critical issue.

Onidi featured again in the next retirement of the day on lap 10 when he was caught by surprise by Johnny Cecotto Jr.'s attempt to sneak down the inside line at turn 5 for 14th position and ended up pinching the Barwa Addax car, resulting in a collision that sent both cars into a spin. Cecotto was out on the spot, while Onidi was able to recover the Coloni and limp back to pit lane, where he was dusted down and sent back out again.

Bethon was continuing to do a solid job of holding onto the race leader and was himself a full 10s ahead of third-placed van der Garde, but his Racing Engineering team mate Fabio Leimer had a costly lap 15 when he put a wheel onto the grass and was unable to make the corner at turn 11: the consequent run-off meaning that he tumbled all the way down from 11th to 15th place in what was proving a very forgettable weekend for the Swiss driver.

Van der Garde's supersort rubber was inevitably the first set of tyres to reach end-of-life status, making him easy prey for Razia into turn 1 on lap 20. However the next man down the road, Jolyon Palmer, couldn't repeat the feat - to the intense frustration of Valsecchi who was now stuck behind them both while seeing his main rival for the GP2 title scamper off into the distance ahead. Valsecchi finally took the matter into his own hands on lap 23 and passed Palmer just after the iSport's latest failed attempt to pass the Caterham. The Italian pulled off the same move on van der Garde next lap around, and Palmer cheekily slipstreamed through in the DAMS' wake: van der Garde's composure was so shattered and his tyres now so shot that he then promptly lost places to Coletti, Calado, Nasr and Haryanto in the ensuing laps on his way to a disappointing tenth place finish.

That set up a terrific three-way battle for seventh place between Coletti, Nasr and Haryanto as they went into the final lap: Nasr had been the one making up all the places during the race, but in this last duel he found himself outwitted by Haryanto who passed them both in the final run into turn 1 as Nasr himself had been dispatching Coletti for eighth. That was some small compensation for Carlin, who after the highs of the rest of the weekend had to rely on Haryanto for their only point in the sprint race after Chilton's supersoft tyres failed to last the distance and saw him slide down to 11th place immediately behind the similarly afflicted van der Garde by the end of the race.

There was no doubt about the winners - Gutiérrez and Berthon had been safely cruising almost since the very first lap, and Razia was safely ahead of Valsecchi by almost ten seconds thanks to the time that Valsecchi had lost trying to get past the slower cars. Palmer had stuck with him for fifth place ahead of James Calado.

There was a sting in the tail, however, when Venezuela GP Lazarus' new boy Sergio Canamasas managed to tap the back of Simon Trummer's Arden as the two charged toward the finish line. That put Trummer's wheel onto the wet grass and the car snapped into a crunching encounter with the metal barrier that was entirely unnecessary and seems bound to see Canamasas handed a penalty for the next feature race.

That won't be for a while, however: with GP2 joining F1 in its summer slumbers for August, the drivers won't be back in action until the weekend of September 1-2 when the action moves to Spa-Francorchamps for the tenth weekend of the 2012 GP2 Series.

Full sprint race results available.


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