29 April 2012
Dillmann holds off Valsecchi whitewash
Valsecchi seemed to pick up on this and made short work of Haryanto with a lovely smooth pass for fourth on lap 12. Following his team mate, Felipe Nasr seemed to be making a study of Valsecchi's moves and then replicating them perfectly to make his own way forward past first Ericsson and later Haryanto, although fifth places proved to be the best he could achieve before the race ran its course.
Valsecchi meanwhile had one further scalp in mind: he wanted back that position he'd lost to Esteban Gutiérrez early on. By the start of lap 17 he was right on the back of the Lotus GP, and when Gutiérrez made a rare error and ran wide through turn 11 it seemed as though Valsecchi might take the position there and then, but the opportunity almost seemed to catch him out and he wasn't able to press home the advantage.
Valsecchi's next opportunity came when the two cars were side-by-side through turns 5 and 6 on lap 18, and this time - while Gutiérrez initially held the position - Valsecchi was more calculating and simply used the inside line through turn 8 to wrest the podium position away and leave Gutiérrez in his dust.
Up front, Dillmann had put all his eggs into the strategy basket of pulling out as big a lead over Razia as quickly as possible in the opening laps while Razia was still contending with traffic: it saw the Frenchman achieve a 5.5s advantage over the Brazilian by mid-race, and fortunately his plans were not hit by any safety cars being deployed during the morning's action.
However, that lead had come at a cost: Dillmann's tyres were fading fast in the final stages of the race, while Razia still had enough life left in his to start tearing chunks out of the comfortable gap the leader thought he'd achieved.
"Maybe it was because of my lack of experience that I pushed a bit too much at the beginning," agreed Dillmann. "At the end, I lost quite a lot of pace. Maybe next time I have to keep the tyres alive a bit longer, but it worked well today."
Before Dillmann could be sure of what was happening, four seconds disappeared out of his lead in the course of just two laps and the Arden was all over him going into the final lap. The disparity of raw speed and tyre conditions were so great that it seemed a foregone conclusion that Razia would take the lead before the chequered flag, but the closer he got to the back of the Rapax the most the dirty air unsettled him - and all the time, his own tyres were starting to flash 'end of life' warning messages to the driver through the steering wheel.
A squirrely moment in the last run through turn 3 on the final lap cost Razia a vital couple of tenths and dropped him back a few feet, which proved decisive in giving Dillmann a slender edge going into the final corner. Razia briefly considered diving down the inside; which would probably have ended in tears for them both. He reconsidered and pinned his hopes on outdragging Dillmann to the line out of the final corner, but the Frenchman used his one legitmate move down the straight to stop Razia's best overtaking opportunity. He didn't get anotherone in time before they crossed the line, and Dillmann had indeed won it by just 0.198s
"I had quite a lot of pressure but I kept cool and at the end, I won," beamed a delighted Dillmann. "It's great because the start of the season has been difficult so far. To finally leave Bahrain as a winner is great. I think the season has started for me now."
"Dillmann lost a bit of pace because of the rear tyres and we had a little bit left and we caught him," explained Razia for his part. "But I think it was too late. I really tried on the last three laps, but I also had tyre degradation and I was not able to overtake him. He did a good job and made no mistake."
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