Istanbul 2008: Grosjean wins, bad luck dogs Senna
11 May 2008
Romain Grosjean made up for his rookie errors in Barcelona to claim victory in Sunday's sprint race in Istanbul, but the Frenchman's success was overshadowed by a potentially serious incident involving a charging Bruno Senna.
Grosjean had only just thrust his ART Grand Prix machine down the inside of long-time leader Vitaly Petrov when Senna returned to the pits with his right front corner folded back against the cockpit of the iSport entry. The Brazilian, clearly annoyed, complained vociferously of something in the middle of the track on the back straight, but it took some time to realise that he had collected a stray dog that had managed to find its way onto the circuit.
Istanbul has its fair share of strays and, when it turned out that there was a second animal on the circuit, presumably looking for the one despatched by Senna, the safety car was sent out to control the pace until it could be rounded up. That, however, was of little consolation to Senna or the iSport team, which not only suffered considerable damage, but have incurred a far more costly penalty had the victim not been caught by the right front wheel of the Brazilian's car.
The safety car period, meanwhile, put Grosjean into a similar position to that which he faced in the Barcelona sprint race but, this time, there was no mistake from the new Asia Series champion, and he pulled out an immediate lead over Petrov, who had Sebastien Buemi and Saturday winner Giorgio Pantano in close company.
Petrov had taken the early lead as problems hit the front row pairing of Adam Carroll and Javi Villa - the Briton succumbing to suspected clutch failure as he pulled away from pole and the Spaniard making a slow getaway - and a series of incidents decimated the field in the corners that followed.
Andy Soucek and Jerome d'Ambrosio collided at turn one, the returnee being stranded in the middle of the track, while Andreas Zuber and Yelmer Buurman came together a little further around the course, taking the innocent Adrian Valles with them. To compound another difficult sprint race for Piquet Sports, Pastor Maldonado was also out, while Ho Pin Tung never made it off the grid.
It took four laps to rescue the various stranded machines, but Petrov remained focused and led away at the restart. In his wake, Buemi headed Villa, Grosjean, race one winner Pantano and Mike Conway, while Karun Chandhok had to defend robustly to keep Roldan Rodriguez out of seventh, the pair actually touching into turn one.
Grosjean wasted little time in making up ground on the frontrunners, slicing past Villa on lap five and taking just two more tours to account for Buemi. Pantano, too, was on the move, demoting Racing Engineering team-mate Villa another place on lap six, with Conway also getting past the Spaniard on lap nine. Having almost pushed Rodriguez into the pit-wall on lap eight, Chandhok's efforts to follow Conway past Villa resulted in the Indian spinning, and Villa followed his aggressor down the order with an error of his own on dirty tyres at the final corner. The mistakes promoted Senna, who had started 15th, to sixth and the Brazilian was flying, swapping the fastest lap bonus with Grosjean.
The Frenchman's progress was complete when he finally managed to make a move on Petrov stick at turn twelve, but there was some confusion as to whether the pass had come under yellow flags, for Senna had collected his unwanted passenger not long before and was hobbling back to the pits on three wheels. No penalty followed, however, and the matter was confined to discussion ahead of the podium celebrations.
Petrov, despite appearing to lack pace on the longest straights, managed to keep Buemi at bay to the chequer, with Pantano keeping a watching brief in fourth. Conway completed a lonely run to fifth, having only just managed to avoid the errant dog that accounted for Senna, while Ben Hanley took advantage of the Brazilian's misfortune to make it two Britons in the points.