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Barcelona 2008: The good Parente guide

26 April 2008


Alvaro Parente led from start to finish on his GP2 Series debut to claim victory in the opening round of the 'summer' championship at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.

The Portuguese driver made the most of a front row grid slot and a mistake from polesitter Pastor Maldonado, who all but stalled at the second start, to seize the initiative into turn one, and was only threatened thereafter by an early safety car period and the constant - if not close - attention of second placed Bruno Senna.

Having had to complete a second formation lap after Milos Pavlovic stalled his BCN entry mid-grid at the first time of asking, Maldonado lurched away and then had his engine die at the second attempt, allowing Parente an unchallenged run to turn one. Behind the Super Nova driver, Maldonado's Piquet Sports team-mate Andreas Zuber came close to collecting the pole car, but still managed to fend Senna off and claim second.

Karun Chandhok made a good getaway to slot in behind the Brazilian, with Adrian Valles, Giorgio Pantano, Vitaly Petrov and the rest all managing to get through the first corner unscathed. The same could not be said for the end of the lap, however, where Luca Filippi's poor run of luck continued following his move from Meritus to ART, the Italian being lifted into a spin at the chicane by Mike Conway.

Another collision as the field filed raced into turn one then interrupted the early flow, as Christian Bakkerud thought he saw a gap to the inside of Ben Hanley, only to collect the Campos car and spin both around. Behind them, Conway's team-mate, Ho-Pin Tung collected Roldan Rodriguez, with the Trident machine being stranded in the gravel and joining its sister in needing the attention of the cranes before racing could resume.

With the pace slowed behind the safety car, the entire field took the opportunity to pit for their mandatory tyre change - no-one making the 'error' committed by iSport and Timo Glock last season. Parente, however, emerged still holding his lead, but Senna was now into second, the beneficiary of iSport's mistake twelve months ago now using the same team's ability in the pits to vault by Zuber, who rejoined in third.

The safety car remained out for several more laps, but only Parente and Senna appeared ready for the restart, immediately opening a gap back to Zuber that remained to the chequered flag. Despite being right with the leader, however, Senna could not quite get close enough to Parente to make a move. The Brazilian would close up heading into the chicane, but did not have the traction to stay close enough to slipstream through into turn one.

Zuber, meanwhile, was running a lonely race in third, as was Pantano in fourth, but Petrov and Valles swapped places on the first lap after racing resumed. Behind their battle, Sebastien Buemi was coming under increasing pressure from Kamui Kobayashi and Asia Series champion Romain Grosjean, with Chandhok next up after receiving the worst of the pit-lane traffic during his tyre stop.

As expected after his 'winter' series triumph, Grosjean was the man on the move, harassing Buemi for several laps before finally worrying the Swiss driver into an error at turn one. Although Buemi cut the corner to rejoin in front of the ART car, he was no match for Grosjean, who swept around the outside of turn three and made the move stick into four.

Once ahead, Grosjean cleared off, quickly catching Valles - who had been repassed by Petrov for fifth into turn one on lap 17. Three laps after disposing of Buemi, Grosjean was past Valles and homing in on the Russian, taking a similar number of laps to make up another spot.

Valles was clearly in trouble, the FMSI car visibly slower than its rivals and beginning to hold up a queue in his wake. From holding onto a couple of points on lap 30, it all went wrong for the Spaniard, as Buemi, Kobayashi, Chandhok, Davide Valsecchi and the recovering Maldonado all found a way through on lap 33. When Filippi passed the FMSI car a lap later, Valles duly pitted, fitting fresh rubber in search of fastest lap, but will start Sunday's sprint a long way down the grid.

The second FMSI car had been a casualty for a long time before Valles' demise, Rodriguez succumbing to damage from Tung's second lap assault and kick-starting a retirement list that gathered Yelmer Buurman, after a hefty accident at turn nine that left the second Arden car buried in the barriers, Hanley, with engine damage, and Bakkerud, who again ended a Barcelona race being helped from his car by the pit crew, appearing to have suffered a recurrence of his 2007 back injury.

The battle for victory continued to the chequer, but with Senna frustratingly just unable to capitalise on his greater pace into the chicane. The Brazilian's final chance appeared to evaporate a couple of laps from home, when a slight bobble mid-lap dropped him away from Parente.

The reigning World Series by Renault champion looked serene out front, however, appearing unflustered by the iSport car in his mirrors and becoming the first Portuguese driver to succeed in GP2, throwing down an immediate gauntlet to the veterans hoping to come out on top this year.


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