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Van der Garde wins, DAMS claim team title

23 September 2012

An overcast late afternoon Sunday sprint race saw a slightly understrength field lining up for the start, with Luca Filippi absent after his car was too badly damaged in a late-race accident on Saturday. However, James Calado had recovered from his debilitating bout of food poisoning that had forced him to retire from the feature race, and he was back in the seat for the sprint.

Polesitter Giedo van der Garde and fellow front row man Marcus Ericsson got good starts off the grid for the Sunday sprint race, while a poor getaway for Felipe Nasr saw him drop to ninth place by the first corner. Beneficiaries to Nasr's problems were Luiz Razia and Fabio Leimer who slotted into third and fourth ahead of Nasr's team mate, newly-crowned 2012 GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi

Valsecchi was in fifth ahead of Esteban Gutiérrez, a key factor in the battle for the still-unresolved teams championship between DAMS and Lotus GP. Gutiérrez was also in a three-way fight for third place in the drivers championship, but with Max Chilton down in eighth and James Calado out of the points in 15th, it was looking good for the Mexican.

Nathanaël Berton ended up with front wing damage on the first lap and got handed a black-and-orange flag to come in to the pits for repairs, but the first retirement was that of Jolyon Palmer on lap 3, after an encounter with Johnny Cecotto Jr. saw him end up running into the wall: Cecotto got handed a drive-thru for causing the collision.

Meanwhile Sergio Canamasas received a drive-thru penalty after his Venezuela GP Lazarus mechanics were amazingly lackadaisical walking off the grid before the formation lap: for some reason, the #18 didn't appear in pit lane within the required three laps, and so on lap 7 the black flag came out with Canamasas' number shown blow it, excluding him from the race.

While the Venezuela GP Lazarus team battled to get the message through to Camamasas whose radio comms had either failed or been switched off, a spin for René Binder through the final corner on lap 9 left their second car stalled broadside on the start-finish straight leaving the race stewards with no option but to bring out the safety car, cancelling the lead that van der Garde and Ericsson had built up

The safety car came in at the end of lap 11, with Camamasas initially still refusing to come in but then dropped down the running order with a technical problem with the car rather than because he'd finally noticed the pit wall messages. Van der Garde set about pulling away from Ericsson, Razia, Leimer and Valsecchi as the green flags came out.

Further back James Calado pulled off moves on both Carlins of Rio Haryanto and Max Chilton to move up to 11th, while Johnny Cecotto was on the charge in his attempt to recover from the early penalty having taken on fresh tyres to aid him and then been fortunate when the safety car closed up the field and negated the time lost in the pit lane. He was soon also past the Carlins and right on the heels of the Lotus of James Calado. Even when Calado tried to find some safety by overtaking first Stephane Richelmi and then Nigel Melker for ninth, there was no relief from Cecotto who followed him through.

Calado's progress was no mere academic matter of driver pride: finishing in the points would mean that he contributed to the DAMS/Lotus team championship battle. Valsecchi was still in front of Gutiérrez, and his DAMS team mate Nasr had also worked his way back into the points and on lap 18 passed Stefano Coletti for seventh place to put himself just a second off the back of Gutiérrez. The advantage was definitely in the hands of the DAMS duo, especially when the still-flying Cecotto got the better of Calado and demoted the Briton back down to tenth place, where he ultimately finished.

Time was fast running out for Lotus, with the race having switched from its ambitious 24-lap target and now become time-capped to 20 laps instead after the safety car period. That suited Giedo van der Garde just fine, with the Caterham cruising for the latter half of the race and comfortably ahead of Ericsson who was clearly struggling with tyre degradation as the race wore on. Still, Ericsson held on to second place ahead of Fabio Leimer, and all three were set to take the final podium of the 2012 GP2 Series season.

Luiz Razia came in ahead of the DAMS/Lotus/DAMS trip of cars: Gutiérrez decided not to try any last lap heroics and settled for sixth place in the DAMS sandwich after all. That confirmed DAMS as the championship team ahead of Lotus with Razia's efforts handing Arden third place; while Gutiérrez clinched third place in the drivers championship ahead of Max Chilton after the Carlin's poor Sunday showing.

And that was it: as the celebrations started in Singapore - particularly in the DAMS garage as they rejoiced in their double title success - the other teams were already starting to pack away the GP2 cars for the winter, job done for 2012. Despite being the longest-ever GP2 season it had flown by, and F1 Grand Prix weekends won't be quite the same again without the feeder series showing up in support.

Full sprint race results available


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