Full feature race 1 results
A slightly delayed start to the Saturday afternoon GP2 race because of the overrunning F1 qualifying session saw DAMS team mates Stephane Richelmi and Jolyon Palmer lining up on the front row ahead of Racing Engineering duo Stefano Coletti and Raffaele Marciello on row two at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain.
However an aborted start at the very last minute put paid to that neat line-up, with Richelmi one of several cars including ART team mates Stoffel Vandoorne and Takuya Izawa that were forced to start from the pit lane instead.
When the lights finally went out, Richelmi's absence from the front row handed Palmer effective control of the start, but he found himself caught in a pincer movement with Coletti blasting around the outside and Russian Time's Mitch Evans lunging through a gap on the inside line. Contact was inevitable, and Coletti was spun out onto the run-off area by contact with Evans who sustained front wing damage in the process. Nor did Palmer escape unscathed as the DAMS car had also suffered damage to its front wing as Coletti tried to sweep into the corner.
Further back down the field there was contact in turn 10 between Marciello (who had bogged down terribly on the grid) and Hilmer Motorsport's Daniel Abt which left both cars stalled in the middle of the race track, which forced race control to deploy the safety car for the next three laps as the pieces were picked up. Abt's team mate Facu Regalia was also involved and forced to park, having also earlier been one of the cars forced to start from the pit lane. Nathanael Berthon was also forced to retire early from the fray after suffering brake failure on the #24 Venezuela GP Lazarus.
When the race resumed, Palmer was still in the lead, and despite his endplate damage he was able to fend off any ideas that Carlin's Felipe Nasr had of getting past. Both men were quick to come on to pit lane for their mandatory tyre change to the harder prime tyres as early as it was allowed, leaving Nasr's team mate Julian Leal minding the store for a single lap before his own very slow on lap 6. That briefly handed the baton to Catheram's Rio Haryanto with Trident's Johnny Cecotto Jr. two seconds behind in the Trident, until it was the Indonesian's turn to came in for his own pit stop a couple of laps later.
Drivers outside the top ten had gone for a prime tyre first stint, and so Cecotto - who has qualified in 16th position - had no need to pit any time soon and was instead able to concentrate on pulling comfortably ahead of Arden's Tom Dillmann (subbing for an injured Andre Negrao at short notice this weekend). Russian Time's rookie driver Artem Markelov had blasted his way up to third place from 25th on the grid ahead of Dillmann's Arden team mate Rene Binder in fourth, with Palmer the leading car to have completed its mandatory pit stop circulating down in 12th place as the race settled into a steady state for a spell after the breathless opening dozen laps.
An engine failure for Alexander Rossi put him out of the race on lap 17 while running behind his team mate Haryanto in 16th place having been among the early stoppers, while Campos Racing's Kimiya Sato was forced into an extra visit to pit lane with a drive-thru penalty after being deemed to have exceeded the pit lane speed limit on his earlier visit for new tyres. Second-place man Dillmann was then served a black-and-orange flag on lap 25 because of concerns over a flapping engine cover, but the Frenchman was able to combined the stop with his mandatory tyre change - although he was then very slow to resume.
That moved Markelov up to second spot albeit nine seconds adrift of race leader Cecotto, as the pit stops for those still on their first set of tyres loomed. Cecotto came in at the end of lap 27, a smooth stop putting him back out right behind Palmer and just far enough in front of Nasr to hold off the Brazilian through the next few corners while his fresh options got up to full temperature, which allowed him to pull away from the Carlin and set his sights on Palmer. Cecotto didn't have long to wait, the old prime tyres on the DAMS proving no competition to Cecotto who breezed past in the chicane on lap 29 to resume the lead of the race, able to pull away from the ailing Palmer at a second per lap without even trying. Palmer meanwhile had his work cut out just keeping ahead of Nasr.
Cruising his way through the final lap, Cecotto's margin of victory at the line was 3.4s after an outstanding performance from the Venezuelan to score his third career GP2 win, his first since Hockenheim in 2012. Nasr ran out of time to pull off a late pass on Palmer, while Leal sealed fourth place ahead of Haryanto and Campos Racing's Arthur Pic who had a quiet but effective run to sixth place ahead of Rene Binder in seventh.
However the Arden driver will be investigated by the stewards for failing to slow sufficiently at yellow flags, and a post-race penalty could affect the make-up of the grid for sprint race 2. As things stand, the front row for that race will consist of Binder and GP2 débutant Tio Ellinas, who crossed the line in eighth place ahead of Dillmann and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and the Cypriot therefore inherits provisional sprint pole under the reverse grid positions - not bad going by any means for a first series outing.
A number of incidents that occurred during the race will be looked at by the stewards overnight. Other than Binder, stewards will also look at the turn 10 clash on the first lap, and at Daniel de Jong losing an improperly attached wheel after his pit stop on lap 25. Berthon will also be probed for overtaking behind the safety car, possibly as a result of the brake issue that forced his subsequent retirement.
Full feature race 1 results