23 March 2008
Sepang 2008: Kobayashi comes good.
Kamui Kobayashi claimed the first win for a Japanese driver in GP2 after coming out on top of the sprint race at round three of the GP2 Asia Series in Malaysia.
The DAMS driver had finished fifth in Saturday's feature, but vaulted straight to the front from the outside of row two, closely followed by race one winner Vitaly Petrov, the Russian coming from eighth, while the front row pairing of Harald Schlegelmilch and Milos Pavlovic struggled to hold off championship leader Romain Grosjean, who had come from ninth after missing the points on Saturday.
The Frenchman made short work of the obstacles in his way to latch on to the rear of Petrov's Campos car with a matter of laps, the pressure on the Russian allowing Kobayashi to pull out a six-second advantage, while the rest of the pack stayed closely matched, with Marcelo Puglisi, Yelmer Buurman and Davide Valsecchi holding the early points places.
While Kobayashi continued to pull away at the front, Petrov and Grosjean enjoyed a tantalising battle until lap the end of lap eleven, when the ART Grand Prix driver suckered his rival into running too deep into the final hairpin, slipping underneath the Russian to assume second spot.
Although he was then able to open a gap back to the Campos car, however, Grosjean was unable to close down the six-second gap to Kobayashi, but second place after the disappointment of Saturday was a welcome result.
“I played it really safe at the start and, then, the cars in front of me were slower, so I could overtake them - all in all, I passed seven cars," the Frenchman reported, "The fight with Petrov was tough, as he was faster than me when outing the corners, but he eventually made a mistake and I went on the outside to overtake him. After that, Kamui was too far away. I wanted to win, but I guess I should focus on the fact that I'm still leading the championship. I made a mistake yesterday that cost us the win…”
Petrov continued to hold third spot, despite some late race attention from Valsecchi, who recorded his second points finish of the weekend for Durango, but the Russian managed to hold on the flag, and moved up to second in the championship as a result.
“I've had a great weekend here in Malaysia if we forget about qualifications..." Petrov admitted, "I tried my best to contain Grosjean, but I made a small mistake and he took the opportunity to pass me. After that, he was faster than me but, with one win and another podium this weekend, I'm now second of the championship. Fauzy is very close, Grosjean is not too far, so the end of the championship should be very interesting!”
With Valsecchi and Buurman having disposed of Puglisi to claim fourth and fifth spots, the battle was on for the final point. Unfortunately for Puglisi, however, the Piquet Sports car was clearly struggling, and he eventually had to let Fairuz Fauzy and the two iSport International drivers, Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna through.
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