13 September 2009
Hulkenberg crowned at Monza.
Third place in Sunday's sprint race at Monza was enough for Nico Hulkenberg to claim the 2009 GP2 Series title with one double-header round remaining, all but ensuring that he will be in Formula One next season.
The German, starting third on the grid, remained in that position from turn one, despite front row man Javi Villa starting from the pit-lane, as Lucas di Grassi got a flier from row three to slot into second. Despite a first lap caution, when di Grassi's Racing Engineering team-mate Dani Clos ended up 'on his roof' at the Lesmos, the leading positions did not change, with Razia holding sway comfortably throughout the 21 laps.
Although sole title rival Vitaly Petrov initially dogged his wheeltracks, Hulkenberg's championship task was eased when the Russian ran off the road at the second Lesmo, losing a spot to Jerome d'Ambrosio. The German needed to claim one point more than Petrov to be sure of the title, and soaked up extensive pressure from the Russian until Petrov's error allowed him to become the first driver to win the GP2 title before the final round, succeeding Giorgio Pantano with the Portimao double-header next weekend still to run.
Razia could have been forgiven for suffering from nerves on his first pole position after being promoted to eighth place - and his first ever point - due to a post-feature penalty for Alvaro Parente, but, when the lights went out, the Brazilian was composed as he led the field away, as the rest scrapped over the space left by Villa.
di Grassi made a storming start to slot in behind the poleman at the first chicane, using the extra-wide home straight to gain ground, while Petrov was even faster but just missed out on getting by Hülkenberg, who sliced in front of his rival for third. d'Ambrosio and Edoardo Mortara ran line astern behind the pair, but a coming together between Dani Clos and Diego Nunes on the run to the Lesmos left the Spaniard's car upside down and the organisers with no option but to call on the safety car for a couple of laps.
At the restart, the leading four drivers left the rest of the field behind to squabble among themselves, but Petrov, knowing that he had to finish ahead of Hülkenberg to have any chance of keeping his slim title hopes alive, threw everything he had at the German. Unfortunately, it was too much, and an extreme wide line out of turn seven gave d'Ambrosio a run through, effectively ending the Russian's bid.
As the chequered flag dropped, it was Razia still at the head of the field, now 2.5secs to the good over di Grassi, with Hülkenberg pumping his fists for joy a further two seconds back. d'Ambrosio ran straight on with two laps remaining, but held fourth ahead of Petrov, while feature race winner Giedo van der Garde picked up the final point after Mortara retired from a damage picked up after the pair cut the first turn.
While all eyes were, understandably, on the new champion, Razia was smiling almost as widely after a mature drive to his first victory, along with the point for fastest lap, made up for the bad luck suffered earlier in the season by the likeable Brazilian.
Hulkenberg, too, was all smiles, and will hope now is that he is able to do what Pantano failed to do, and convince F1 bosses to take a chance on the new GP2 champion.
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