29 September 2005
Bahrain 2005: ART full house hands Rosberg title.
Nico Rosberg clinched the inaugural GP2 Series title in style, as his ART Grand Prix team completed a sweep of victory, pole position and fastest lap to end rival Heikki Kovalainen's chances of stealing the crown in Bahrain.
Starting from pole position in Sakhir, the ART Grand Prix driver pulled away from the field to underline his dominance of the second half of the season. Initially with Kovalainen for company, the German was able to concentrate on his own race when the Finn opted to make his mandatory pit-stop as the safety car retired on lap two, and capitalised on an empty track to extend his advantage over second-placed Nicolas Lapierre, the Arden-run Frenchman unable to do anything about his team-mate's title chances.
Kovalainen rejoined towards the back of the field, hoping no doubt to use the tactic that has worked well right from race one at Imola in April, climbing back through the field as others made their stops and capitalising on the leaders not being as far in front as they may have been by mid-distance. The Finn was clearly on a charge, the rear of his Arden Dallara stepping out at the slightest hint of a dusty surface, but progress into Rosberg's lead was slow.
The race - and championship - leader was not hanging about either, setting ART's first fastest lap on the third tour and continuing to run faster than almost anyone else in the field.
Behind him, Lapierre fended off the German's ART team-mate Alex Premat for all he was worth until the all-French battle was ended by Premat's stop, allowing Giorgio Pantano into third. The Italian had tried an audacious assault on second place off the line, as both front row starters made tardy getaways, but was eventually rebuffed and finally lost fourth to Ernesto Viso. Pantano quickly regained that position from the Venezuelan, but was already trailing the leaders by some margin.
Several potential points scorers were already out, with Gianmaria Bruni cruising to a halt on the main straight eight laps in and Scott Speed being spun into retirement by a mechanical problem two tours later. This, added to the expected pit-stops among the leaders and midfield, quickly allowed Kovalainen to climb back into the top ten and, by the time Rosberg made his tyre change on lap eleven, the Finn was back within striking race of his championship adversary.
Despite almost being collected by Lapierre as the Frenchman came in for his stop, Rosberg managed to rejoin with breathing space back to Kovalainen and ART team-mate Premat, who was now hounding the Finn. The trio wasn't quite battling over the lead, with Hiroki Yoshimoto, Juan Cruz Alvarez and Alex Negrao all still to pit, but provided a tantalising glimpse of what could be over the closing stages.
Behind the leading stoppers, Ferdinando Monfardini was making good use of his late deal with Coloni, holding a strong 'fourth' spot ahead of Jose Maria Lopez, Pantano, Lapierre and Yoshimoto - after the BCN driver stopped - but there were others for whom strategy had not appeared to work. Among them, Viso had dropped to 14th during his pit-stop, while Adam Carroll found himself mired in the midfield he had worked so hard to move through early on.
Both drivers were clearly faster than those around them and, having hooked up, made quick work of the cars between them and the top eight, eventually settling into ninth and tenth, but closing rapidly on the back of Yoshimoto. Viso was eventually given a leg up into the scoring positions when the luckless Monfardini was forced to call it a day, the Italian's frustration showing visibly as he asked questions of his car by the side of the road. Nelson Piquet Jr was also out, a long pit-stop eventually presaging a return to the garage and a less than happy Brazilian who, like Carroll had seen a leading qualifying position squandered for undue haste under yellow flags.
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