23 July 2011
Filippi's 100th sees him at the top of his game
Luca Filippi couldn't have asked for or done better on his maiden appearance for Coloni, dominating the race and claiming the team's first GP2 Series victory of the 2011 season.
Changing teams mid-season in GP2 - where all teams use the same hardware - is not as disruptive as doing so in F1 for example, but it's still not exactly ideal. Luca Filippi had already performed above and beyond any reasonable call of duty by qualifying in second place for the feature race on his first track day with the team, and a podium finish would be the icing on the cake. Asking for anything more would just be greedy, surely?
The start saw all 26 cars get away with polesitter Charles Pic leading Filippi into turn 1 and Jules Bianchi getting the better of Romain Grosjean for third, but there was trouble in turn 4 when Pal Varhaug - whose Dams car was sporting a black nose to express sympathy with and support for the victims of the Oslo tragedy on Friday - made contact with Kevin Mirocha's Ocean Racing Technology car, while AirAsia's Davide Valsecchi went into the back of Racing Engineering's Christian Vietoris and completely demolished the #8's rear wing.
The stranded Ocean Racing car mid-track brought out a safety car while the crane did its work, with Mirocha joining Varhaug and Vietoris on the sidelines. Only Valsecchi was able to continue, after two visits to the pits for running repairs. Racing resumed on lap 3 with Giedo van der Garde putting Romain Grosjean under severe pressure for fourth as Pic and Filippi up ahead started to pull out a gap over Bianchi in third.
Stuck down the running order, Fairuz Fauzy and Max Chilton were among those to decide on an early mandatory pit stop strategy on lap 6 to try and gain an advantage; next time around and van der Garde followed suit, hoping to undercut Grosjean for position in the pits. Worried about losing track position, half the field came in over the next five laps.
The leaders stayed out, however - with Pic having pulled out a 2.5s lead over Filippi by lap 12, which was the point where Romain Grosjean opted to come in for his new tyres along with Sam Bird and Luiz Razia. Pic was in next time around at the same time as Jules Bianchi who opted for a time-consuming four tyres, and now it was Filippi's opportunity to put his foot down and try and put in a fast lap and overtake Pic in the pits.
The strategy was a triumph for Filippi, who emerged back on track ahead of Pic; it had proved less successful for early stopper van der Garde who had found himself stuck in traffic and was now far behind Grosjean who had successfully emerged in front. Bianchi's longer stop meant he had slipped back and had to get back past van der Garde the old-fashioned way - on track - going into turn 1 on lap 17, while both were behind held up by late-stopping Davide Valsecchi who had survived an earlier major off-road excursion through the gravel.
Once Rodolfo Gonzalez came in for his pit stop on lap 17, Filippi was in the lead for the first time in the afternoon and pulling away from the battle for second between Pic and Grosjean, with Bianchi, van der Garde, Marcus Ericsson, Alvaro Parente and Dani Clos forming the top eight. Sam Bird was working hard on Clos in an effort to claim the all-important sprint race pole under the reverse grid rules, as both were held up by the slower Parente up ahead which allowed Luiz Razia, Adam Carroll and Fabio Leimer to catch up and join the battle.
Clos succumbed to Bird through turn 1 on lap 27; Razia also tried to jump in and take advantage of the moment as well but wasn't able to pull it off, while behind them Carroll received a tap from Leimer that sent him sideways onto the grass in turn 5 and a glancing blow with the barrier that cost him multiple positions in his début for Super Nova. But Bird's provisional sprint pole didn't last long, with Clos striking back and taking eighth place back in the same spot next time around lap, leaving Bird struggling to hold off Razia for ninth.
But luck was on the iSport driver's side, and the next few minutes would see the answers to both his problems. The first came in the form of a penalty for Alvaro Parente who had been running in seventh place but was now struggling badly, only maintaining position by cutting the chicane entirely on lap 28. Finally race control had enough and handed him a drive-thru penalty for failing to respect the track limits, but even before he came into pit lane he had ceded positions to both Clos and Bird. When Parente finally did bring the Carlin into the pits, it was to call it a day.
Giedo van der Garde
Click on relevant pic to enlarge
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