27 April 2008
Barcelona 2008: Good things Kamui to those....
Kamui Kobayashi continued to build on his success in the GP2 Asia Series by winning the second race of the opening round of the 'summer' competition in Barcelona - although he had to rely on a moment or two of hot-headedness from Asia champion Romain Grosjean.
The Japanese driver, starting from pole after finishing eighth in Saturday's feature, managed to fend off fellow front row starter Sebastien Buemi - albeit in robust fashion that saw the Swiss put two wheels on the grass - to claim the lead into turn one. Such was Buemi's loss of momentum that Grosjean snuck through from fourth to take up the pursuit of the leader, while Giorgio Pantano, Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna occupied the early points positions.
Further back, there was a moment of chaos as Alberto Valerio and Diego Nunes stalled on the grid, forcing those on the last few rows to take avoiding action, while Karun Chandhok caused a further reshuffle by spinning the second iSport car on lap one.
While Grosjean closed on Kobayashi entering lap two, just outside the points the two Piquet Sports cars were beginning a race-long war that would see them make contact on several occasions, although the first move, by Pastor Maldonado on Andi Zuber, was clean. The Austrian was off-line, however, and also lost a position to Luca Filippi, although that was swiftly regained when the luckless Italian pitted two laps later.
By that time, Grosjean had moved into first place, a position he became comfortable with during the Asian campaign. Once free of Kobayashi, the French-Swiss driver pulled away easily, opening out a three-second advantage by the end of lap six.
In his wake, Buemi did not appear to have the pace to bridge the gap, and was coming under increasing pressure from Pantano, despite the Racing Engineering Dallara puffing smoke whenever its Mecachrome engine was asked to provide a little more effort. The 'problem' did not seem to be holding the veteran back, however, with the following Petrov and Senna unable to take advantage of the battle ahead of them.
By lap ten, Grosjean was almost six seconds to the good, meaning that all the action was taking place back in the field, notably among those chasing points, but also between the two Piquet Sports drivers and over twelfth place as Brits Ben Hanley and Mike Conway harried the tyre-troubled Adrian Valles. The pressure on Pantano was alleviated when Petrov cruised to a halt on the main straight, joining Roldan Rodriguez on the sidelines.
The Russian's retirement meant that the Maldonado/Zuber scrap suddenly took on extra momentum, with a point now at stake, and the Austrian appeared to growing frustrated at having to follow his team-mate. The first contact came on lap 18, and resulted in minor cosmetic damage, but picked up in intensity two laps later as Zuber forced his way through at turn nine.
The final clash occurred with five laps to run, as the field was bunched up behind a safety car to clear the spun car of debutant Giacomo Ricci. This time, Maldonado forced his way back inside Zuber at turn one, forcing the Austrian to cut the corner and losing positions himself into the bargain. Whether enough was enough for the Piquet team is unclear, but both were summoned to pit-lane at the end of the lap....
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