10 July 2011
Grosjean celebrates smart sprint success
Romain Grosjean glided into third place early in the GP2 sprint race at Silverstone, then waited patiently until late tyre wear issues allowed him past Dani Clos and Giedo van der Garde.
Silverstone bestowed relative warmth and undeniable sunshine on the GP2 field as they lined up for the Sunday sprint race, a world apart from the miserable, wet downpour that they had endured for the previous day's feature race start.
That didn't mean there weren't problems with the start of the race, however, with Dams' Pal Varhaug pulling off the grid and stopping on the adjacent run-off area with a technical issue while the starting procedure went ahead without him. And as the lights went out, a potentially more dangerous problem emerged when Stefano Coletti's Trident stalled in second place on the grid, forcing the drivers starting behind him to react quickly and take evasive action.
That allowed Giedo van der Garde to get away from pole on the other side of the grid, but Dani Clos was hard on his heels straight away as they tore down to turn 1. Behind them, Sam Bird just managed to avoid the stricken Coletti off the grid but the blockage compromised him and he was soon overtaken by Romain Grosjean for third place, while at the same time Clos used his superior momentum to get alongside van der Garde before passing him at turn 4,
Van der Garde wasn't thrilled with Clos' early approach: "I think at the start Clos was too aggressive: he hit me in turn 2, I came sideways and he put it in again in turn 3, so for me it was a bit too much."
"We started the race a little bit aggressive," described Clos after the race, "and I knew that Giedo was going to be really quick so at the beginning I tried to attack: I saw the space in the third corner but it was not possible, and then I got it in the fourth. After that we had a really good rhythm, I felt really happy with the car."
Clos' team mate Christian Vietoris had a more erratic first lap, first managing to get past the iSport duo of Bird and his team mate Marcus Ericsson, then losing the places again, before finally managing to get a superior exit from the final corner of turn 1 and sweep Marcus Ericsson clear off onto the run-off area so that he could lock up fifth place at last.
The race quickly settled down with drivers looking after their tyres while simultaneously biding their time in the hope that their opponents' rubber deteriorated toward the end of the race. There were some nice moves futher down the field, with Jolyon Palmer and Davide Valsecchi banging wheels on the first lap, and Charles Pic pulling off a nice slipstream overtake on Luca Filippi for tenth place on lap 10. The situation was perhaps best conveyed by the sight of yesterday's dominant feature race winner Jules Bianchi still stuck in seventh place on lap 10 (having started from eighth) alongside his Lotus ART team mate Esteban Gutierrez, neither driver able to make any progress during the first half of the 21 lap sprint.
However, once the race reached two thirds distance it was clear that many of the cars had already pushed their tyres as far as they were willing to go, with a sudden upturn in the number of lock-ups, outbraking and handling problems which in turn gave opportunities to that select group of drivers who had been able to preserve their Pirelli P Zero medium compounds and still had rubber to work with.
Racing Engineering has been notable in the past in not being one of the teams able to make tyres last as long as some of the others, and on lap 15 it was indeed evident that Clos was now seriously backing up the field with less than 2s covering the top four cars. But the Barwa Addax of Giedo van der Garde was in no better shape itself and had little prospect of challenging for the lead as it started falling off the back of Clos' car. That handed the opportunity that Romain Grosjean had been patiently waiting for.
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