12 May 2012
Pit stop propels van der Garde to victory
Caterham Racing's Giedo van der Garde leap-frogged the leaders mid-race to take control of the GP2 feature race in Barcelona, and proved impossible to dislodge before the chequered flag.
After the tactical fun and games of tyre strategies during Friday qualifying, the Saturday GP2 feature race in Barcelona proved to be a rather more straight-forward race fought out on the track, with pit stops ultimately proving decisive as to who claimed the chequered flag at the end of 37 hard-fought laps.
The start of the race saw a thrilling battle between front row men James Calado and Fabio Leimer: the Racing Engineering car got the better traction off the grid and seemed to have the jump on the polesitter down into turn 1, forcing Calado to go hardcore with a vicious swipe over the width of the track to run Leimer clear off into the pit lane exit in his efforts to stop Leimer from controlling the inside line into the first corner.
It was still incredibly close for the two as they exited turn 1 and headed into the next corner, and Calado once again left no room for his rival in his efforts to keep the lead. Finally it paid off and Leimer had to relent, turning his attention instead to maintaining his second place over a fiesty Giedo van der Garde in the Caterham, who in turn was having to watch his back from the efforts of Coloni's Stefano Coletti.
Further back, Stephane Richelmi had the worst start off the grid from third position and found himself swamped by his pursuers, and then getting repeated hustled off the side of the track over the course of the first lap so that by the time they returned to the start/finish straight the Trident Racing car was dumped down in 12th position.
The field remained closely packed over the early laps, with fierce battles between Nigel Melkur, Luiz Razia and Johnny Cecotto Jr. over tenth place, and between Esteban Gutiérrez, Rodolfo Gonzalez, Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Nasr and Tom Dillmann for 14th place.
The two race leaders had remained in close contention and opted to pit together surprisingly early on lap 13, Calado narrowly beating Leimer in a side-by-side run down pit lane in what immediately looked like a dangerous release into the path of the Lotus GP.
Van der Garde realised he couldn't leave his response too long, and came in himself on the following lap as did: Van der Garde's ace up his sleeve - for now at least - was the team's call to change two tyres only, putting him back out on track just in front of Calado. The Lotus GP driver had to dispense with the yet-to-pit Victor Guerin and Julian Leal before he could take up the Caterham's challenge.
Max Chilton, Fabio Onidi, Johnny Ceotto and others further back also came in on lap 14, while Davide Valsecchi stayed out until lap 15 before opting to pit the DAMS. The final cars to come into pit lane were Gutiérrez and Ericsson: not helped by a hold-up with his tyre change, Gutiérrez fell back to 14th, but he retained position over Ericsson.
With the pit stops complete, van der Garde was returned to the top of the time sheets ahead of Calado, Leimer, Coletti and Valsecchi - which meant that the only gainer from the pit stops among the leader had been the Caterham.
Giedo van der Garde
Click on relevant pic to enlarge
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