22 September 2012
Valsecchi seals title, Chilton wins race
Cecotto did not stay in the hunt for long, however: next lap by, he misjudged his run though the tricky turn 10 chicane and took some serious right-side air over the kerbs which left him running off into the wall, causing him to retire on the spot.
Onidi was the final man to come in for his mandatory pit stop at the end of lap 13, which meant that Chilton and Gutiérrez were back in the lead. By now, they had comprehensively started to drop Filippi off the back, and it was clear that the Coloni was paying badly for his very early two-wheel tyre change compared with the leaders who had pitted much later according to their pre-race plans.
Filippi wasn't the only one struggling: behind him in fourth place, Jolyon Palmer was also showing rapidly increasing signs of tyre degradation and dropping off the pace at a precipitous rate. That helped protect the similarly ailing Filippi from attack during the middle of the race, but once Leimer led Valsecchi and Razia past the iSport they were soon taking chunks out of the gap to the Coloni and it was inevitable that Filippi would start to lose positions at a rate of knots. Once Leimer blasted past him, Filippi even briefly featured in the battle for the 2012 drivers championship as he held up Valsecchi and backed the DAMS car dangerously up into the clutches of Razia for a time.
In a similar position further back was another of the early two-wheel stopped, James Calado, who was clearly much slower that the pack of cars massing behind him led by Caterham's Giedo van der Garde, DAMS' Felipe Nasr and the iSport of Marcus Ericsson. Van der Garde made a number of moves on Calado, appeared to have taken the position, only to get thwarted by some very calm and astute race craft from the British driver. Eventually van der Garde's patience snapped and the two went side-by-side through the final corner of lap 15 banging wheels - which allowed Felipe Nasr to pass them both, and Ericsson follow through in close pursuit.
In the end, the tyre degradation was so bad for Filippi and Calado that both were forced to make additional pit tops for new rubber. Palmer would probably have done likewise if he had not already pulled off the track and retired with a mechanical problem on lap 19; while Calado would also pull over and park on lap 23, feeling too ill to continue after suffering from food poisoning in the build up to the weekend only made worse by the stifling humid conditions on race day. He will confirm later whether he's able to participate in the Sunday sprint race.
Filippi would put his new tyres to good use and made a determined charge through the field to try and make it a final weekend in GP2 for Coloni to remember, but it all went wrong on lap 24, not only for Filippi but also for his team mate Fabio Onidi.
First, Onidi locked up his brakes and ploughed into the back of Jake Rosenzweig's Barwa Addax; and then almost at the same moment, Filippi also locked up and in his case ran into the wall at the entrance to the tunnel under the grandstand. He was able to get back underway, but his front wing subsequently failed when he attempted to take the final corner and he found to his cost that he had no downforce, causing him to sail off into the outside wall and bury the Coloni's nose good and proper into the barrier. The damage was extensive enough to preclude Filippi racing in the Sunday sprint race.
That was enough to force the race stewards to re-deploy the safety car. It had been apparent from early on that with the GP2 cars not able to do much better than two minute laps on the Singapore street circuit, there was never going to be any chance of fitting in a 34-lap race before the one hour timed cut off, and so the safety car ended up pulling off just before the cars took the chequered flag at the end of lap 28 instead.
That suited Chilton just fine, as he claimed his second feature race win of the year and his fourth podium of 2012. While deprived of the chance to make a late attack for the win, Gutiérrez was likely also pleased as he never seemed to have the speed necessary to seriously challenge the Carlin for the outright win and was probably relieved not to have to fight off third-placed man Fabio Leimer in the closing laps.
But most significantly of all, Davide Valsecchi had clinched fourth place: and the finish one place ahead of Luiz Razia meant that Valsecchi now had a 27pt lead over the Brazilian in the championship. With only 18pts on offer in the Sunday sprint race, it meant that the matter was decided: Valecchi was confirmed as the 2012 GP2 Series drivers champion, following in the tracks of 2011 champion Romain Grosjean, his predecessor in the DAMS car.
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