23 June 2012
Gutierrez wins incident-packed Valencia feature
Lotus GP's Esteban Gutiérrez was back on the top step of the podium for the first time in a year, after a succession of safety cars denied his team mate James Calado victory.
After a strangely overcast and blustery day on Friday, the weather was firmly back on course on Saturday in time for the 30-lap GP2 Series feature race 1, with blue skies and hot sunshine the order of the day, 46 degrees on the track and only the lightest of pleasant breezes to cool the drivers and teams down as they lined up on the starting grid in Valencia. Under such calm conditions, there was a stormy GP2 feature race ahead.
As the lights went out, Lotus GP's James Calado immediately pulled away from the DAMS of Felipe Nasr off on the front row. That left Nasr under attack from Caterham's Giedo van der Garde, who had inherited third place after Esteban Gutiérrez and Davide Valsecchi were penalised for blocking in qualifying.
Nasr couldn't hold off the Caterham, and instead had his hands full into the second corner with Gutiérrez who had managed a flying start from his relegated third row position. Nasr finally lost that one, too, and over the course of the next few laps his car would appear off the pace and he would succumb to strikes from Fabio Leimer on the exit of the bridge and Marcus Ericsson on the start/finish line before finally stabilising his position sufficiently to temporarily ward off Luiz Razia.
Further back, Valsecchi had a disastrous start off the grid and dropped back to 15th position; Carlin's Max Chilton hadn't got the best of starts either and ended up caught in an accident with iSport's Jolyon Palmer, who spun after running over the curbs while battling with Leimer. Palmer's front wing ended up wedged underneath the Carlin, and when it finally detached itself several corners later it ended up flying off of its own accord into the path of Tom Dillmann's Rapax.
Chilton had tumbled out of the top ten as a result of this; Palmer himself ended up at the bottom of the running order after an emergency pit stop for a new front wing, but he was able to rejoin and continue. Meanwhile Ocean Racing's Nigel Melker had already become the first retirement of the day when he ran straight off into the tyre barrier on lap 2.
As things settled down, Nasr's ongoing attempts to hold off Razia caused a bit of a roadblock behind him, leading to Rio Haryanto and Johnny Cecotto Jr having a scary moment as Haryanto tried to ward off an overtaking move from the Barwa Addax driver that came close to a major collision against the wall. Cecotto made the move stick, and that meant that when Nasr finally lost his bid to stay in front of Razia, it wasn't long before Cecotto went straight past him as well.
No surprise that Nasr was soon into pit lane, along with other cars that had been struggling including Valsecchi, Chilton and Dillmann. Victor Guerin was also in early, and suffered two stalls and then a penalty for speeding on pit lane once he finally did get underway.
Up in front, Calado had pulled out a hugely impressive nine second lead over the scrap for second between van der Garde, Gutiérrez and Leimer: but by lap 10 the Caterham seemed to be starting to struggle and was squirming under braking, and Gutiérrez under up misjudging his braking point and using a bump off the back of the Caterham to make the hairpin turn, giving Leimer the chance to pass them both.
Conceding defeat with his handling on this first set of tyres, van der Garde headed into pit lane next time around - only to have a problem with the right rear wheel cost him vital seconds. To make matters worse, when he exited his pit stall he found a pit lane worker from another team stepping off the pit wall right in front of him without looking, giving him a scare as he needed to jerk the wheel right to avoid running over the unwary and startled crewman.
Giedo van der Garde
Johnny Cecotto Jr.
Click on relevant pic to enlarge
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