CLICK: Full feature race 1 results from the Hungaroring
Campos Racing's Arthur Pic clinched his first win in the GP2 Series on Saturday at the Hungaroring, in an eventful race that hinged on pit stop strategy but which also saw some thrilling racing between the championship leaders Felipe Nasr and Jolyon Palmer and a big accident for Trident's Sergio Canamasas that led to the race finishing two laps early.
The race had got underway ten minutes late after the rain-affected qualifying session for the F1 Grand Prix of Hungary, but fortunately by then there was no sign of the earlier rain as Carlin's Felipe Nasr and Caterham's Tom Dillmann led the field away from the grid. Nasr survived an early attack from Dillman through turn 1 and was then able to pull away from the Frenchman who had his hands full with championship leader Jolyon Palmer, who had himself quickly dispatched both of the Campos Racing cars that had started the race locking out row 2.
Palmer and then survived contact with Stoffel Vandoorne to move into third place putting him right behind Dillmann, and it was clear that the Frenchman's pace was not a match for those behind him as he gradually backed the field up, allowing Nasr to pull away at the front and claim a three second lead within the space of a single lap. Palmer certainly had the pace but had a tougher time finding the opportunity to pass Dillmann, his first attempt culminating in both running through a chicane thereby preserving the deadlock for another lap. Finally the inevitable happened and Palmer was able to execute the pass and was at last free to give chase to the distant Nasr.
Dillmann was quickly dropped, and his focus was firmly on holding back Vandoorne in fourth ahead of Raffaele Marciello (Racing Engineering), Arthur Pic, Johnny Cecotto Jr. (Trident), Kimiya Sato (Campos Racing), Stephane Richelmi (DAMS) and Marco Sorensen (MP Motorsport). The frustration of being held up behind the slower Caterham, coupled with the resulting close-quarters running, inevitably started to result in drivers taking chances where there were insufficient openings: Stefano Coletti (Racing Engineering) and Julian Leal (Carlin) were among those to make contact, leaving Coletti with a puncture and a wounded car while Leal retired in the pits.
The biggest incident came on lap 7, when Sato ran wide while attempting to defend eighth position from Richelmi; the two ended up making contact and ran off into the gravel, Richelmi making a big impact in the turn eight tyre wall. That caused race control to deploy the safety car to retrieve the car and rebuild the barrier, thereby wiping out Nasr's huge lead at the front. It also gave a number of cars including Marciello, Pic and Rio Haryanto (Caterham) a chance to gamble on carrying out their mandatory pit stop, but the majority of the leaders stayed out for the restart.
Nasr handled that with aplomb and quickly pulled away again from Palmer and Dillmann, who despite his slower pace was still able to maintain third position from Vandoorne, Cecotto and Sorensen. Caterham's Mitch Evans had moved up to seventh place ahead of Venezeula GP Lazarus' Conor Daly, while Marciello and Pic's decision to pit under the safety car had dropped them down to 13th and 14th place respectively. In Marciello's case, that was soon converted to 22nd as a result of being handed a drive-thru penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
Palmer eventually cut Nar's lead to under half a second. Dillmann by contrast was over 11 seconds back, making him painfully vulnerable to losing position to those early-stopping cars headed by Pic and Haryanto currently in 13th and 14th leap-frogging him when it came his time to pit. Sensitive to this danger, Trident called in their man Cecotto early for his pit stop, but the gambit ended in disaster when the car stalled and couldn't be refired, dumping the Venezuelan out of the race.
With tyre degradation now seriously hitting their pace, even the runaway leaders were no longer safe from being jumped in pit lane. Palmer tried one bold move down the inside of Nasr in turn 1 but was rebuffed by some assertive defensive driving from the Brazilian who then immediately pitted on lap 25 having realised that his tyres could take no more. Palmer came in next time around and exited pit lane just in front of Nasr but he then locked up, allowing Nasr to get back in front; the two had a virtual restaging of their earlier battle except that this time Palmer completed the pass and went ahead - only for Nasr to stage an immediate successful counterattack to reclaim the dropped position. However the result of the pit stops had been to drop both men out of the top ten, meaning all this aggressive battling was going on outside the points-paying positions.
Vandoorne and Rapax's Simon Trummer had been alone in staying out, with Pic up to third ahead of Haryanto, Coletti and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs in the second Rapax. However there was to be another major upset to the running order, as a battle bwteeen Berthon and Canamasas ended up in contact that sent the Trident spinning off the track into a hard impact with the Arnco barrier, while Berthon was very lucky not to be collected by other cars as he spun right across the track. Race control immediately scrambled the safety car in order to get the medical car to the scene and attend Canamasas, while a very lucky Berthon found himself pointing in the right direction and able to carry on.
Vandoorne and Trummer were forced to make their pit stops under the yellows, and Rio Haryanto's left rear wheel detached while running behind the safety car, meaning that it was Pic ahead of Coletti, Quaife-Hobbs and ART's Takuya Izawa when the race restarted. Palmer had managed to get his nose in front of Nasr in the seconds before Canamasas/Berthon accident and was able to make up another position by passing Abt for fifth place in the single lap of racing that remained before the one hour time cap forced the chequered flag to drop two laps earlier than expected.
Nasr crossed the line in seventh place meaning that he will be on the front row of the grid for Sunday morning's sprint race, putting him alongside Marciello who benefited from the late race chaos to claim eighth place and sprint pole for tomorrow. After his late pit stop, Vandoorne finished in ninth just ahead of the very lucky Berthon who claimed the final points position.
Inevitably given how dramatic and incident-packed the race had been, a number of incidents were flagged for post-race review by the stewards which may shake up the Sunday grid. But it likely won't affect the feature race podium, which saw Pic celebrating with Coletti and Quaife-Hobbs after a combination of cool driving, luck and strategy had put them on top just when it mattered.
Palmer's fifth place means he now has 178 points in the GP2 drivers championship with Nasr on 139, having cut Palmer's lead by just two points thanks to the bonus he earned for clinching pole position. Coletti moves up into third position ahead of Coletti, while in the team standings DAMS mantains a modest 14 point lead over Carlin heading into Sunday's race, the last before GP2's summer break in August.
See full feature race 1 results from the Hungaroring