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Hungaroring 2005: Jani squeaks slugfest.

Neel Jani secured his first GP2 Series victory after holding off a concerted challenge from points leader Heikki Kovalainen in the closing stages of a bruising 42-lap encounter at the Hungaroring.

Starting from pole position, Jani led from first lap to last, timing his late pit-stop to perfection as he rejoined in front of Kovalainen, whose own stop had allowed him to vault past early second place man Giorgio Pantano.

The Hungaroring's notoriously dusty surface played against Kovalainen at the start, making the first corner battle between Jani and the fast-starting Pantano, who took a look inside the Racing Engineering Dallara at turn one before thinking better of a rash move. The points leader also dropped a place to Scott Speed, who had started directly behind the Arden car on row two.

Gimmi Bruni and Ernesto Viso were next up, ahead of an equally fast-starting Olivier Pla, but there was a return to the bad old ways of early GP2 days as several cars stalled on the grid.

Alex Negrao and new boy Giorgio Mondini had already struggled to get away on the warm-up lap, and it was the turn of Hiroki Yoshimoto, Nicolas Lapierre and Ferdinando Monfardini who needed assistance before getting on their way for lap one. Also making a slow start was Nico Rosberg, the erstwhile polesitter - relegated, along with ART team-mate Alex Premat, to the back row - but the German eventually found the revs he needed to join at the back of the field.

Rosberg was among the earliest pit callers, deciding that the sort of tactic that had benefited title rival Kovalainen on more than one occasion could also help him, opting to make his tyre stop on lap two, along with Nelson Piquet Jr, who had qualified a lowly 16th. They were followed on lap three by Bruni, who instantly put his fresh rubber to good use by toppling leader Jani from the fastest lap board.

Jani, however, was not concerned about his pace over a single lap, pushing as he was to open a gap back to Pantano. The leading pair had eased away from Speed, who found the similarly-liveried car of Kovalainen all over the back of his iSport entry. Bruni's pit-call was the only alteration among the points positions, promoting those behind him one spot, and allowing Jose Maria Lopez into the top eight.

Rosberg and Yoshimoto, both desperate to make up for lost time, lost more with off-track excursions as they pressed on but, the Japanese driver suffering more in the long-term despite Rosberg's long flight across the grass at the uphill left-hander that would catch more out as the race wore on. Mondini's debut, meanwhile, last as far as lap twelve.

While the two leaders continued to pull away, there were several close battles in their wake, none more so in the early stages than that between Speed and Kovalainen. Ironically, given the pressure on track, it was off it that the decisive mistake came, as Speed stopped in front of the wrong set of mechanics while making his call for tyres. The delay in rolling the few extra metres to his own crew, added to a somewhat shaky restart, ultimately cost the American third position as he rejoined, despite Kovalainen running out of road on a fast in-lap.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Race winner Neel Jani crosses the line to the joy of his Racing Engineering crew
Alex Premat - ART Grand Prix   [pic credit: GP2 media]
Ernesto Viso - BCN Competicion   [pic credit: GP2 media]
Gustav Malja F2 2017
Nobuharu Matsushita - ART Grand Prix [credit: Formula 2]
Charles Leclerc - PREMA Racing
Charles Leclerc, Prema Racing, F2, Formula 2, Bahrain
Charles Leclerc - PREMA Racing
Charles Leclerc - PREMA Racing
Artem Markelov, F2, Bahrain
Artem Markelov
Norman Nato, Bahrain F2 2017, Formula 2
Charles Leclerc, Prema Racing, Formula 2, 2017
Nabil Jeffri, Team Trident [Credit: Team Trident]
Alexander Albon - ART Grand Prix [GP2 Series]
Gustav Malja - Racing Engineering [credit: GP2 Series]
Pierre Gasly - PREMA Racing
Alex Lynn - DAMS

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