Silverstone 2006: Hamilton again as rivals implode

Lewis Hamilton became the first man to take two double-header sweeps in GP2 after coming from eighth on the grid to add a second victory in front of a rapidly growing fanbase at Silverstone.

Lewis Hamilton became the first man to take two double-header sweeps in GP2 after coming from eighth on the grid to add a second victory in front of a rapidly growing fanbase at Silverstone.

Aided by two cars ahead of him stalling on the grid - including ART team-mate Alex Premat - the Briton also put in a series of scintillating passes as he made his way to the front, passing long-time leader Felix Porteiro on lap 13 and then romping to a nine-second margin over the second half. Porteiro went further than in any other sprint race this season to hold on to second, with Adam Carroll coming through to take his second podium of the weekend.

Ernesto Viso was the first driver to stall, on the warm-up lap, as temperatures, although cooler, began to rise again at Silverstone. However, the Venezuelan was helped in his quest to take something from the weekend when new team-mate Timo Glock joined Premat in losing their engines at the first start, relegating the Frenchman to pit-lane and his German rival, after a push start, to the back of the field. Viso, meanwhile, rejoined in his allotted 19th spot, already improved by the overnight exclusion of both Durango cars and the withdrawal of the sore Ferdinando Monfardini.

Premat and Glock had been due to line up fore and aft of Nelson Piquet Jr on the odd-numbered side of the grid, and that allowed the Brazilian to make a determined dart for the front when the lights finally went out. Giorgio Pantano, in fourth, had other ideas, however, and left Piquet on the grass as he dived across the road on the run to Copse. Somehow, the pair emerged from the fist corner unscathed, with Italian leading Brazilian as intended.

Further back, meanwhile, a potentially more serious incident appeared to be on the verge of taking place, as several cars dived to the inside, apparently oblivious to the fact that the pit wall would be kind to either man or machine. In the end, all emerged relatively unscathed from the first of several thrilling close calls that would highlight the race.

That wasn't the end of the first lap action, however, with home heroes Hamilton and Carroll going at it hammer and tongs for almost the entire 3.194 miles. With the ART man getting marginally the better start, it was left to Carroll to make the first move, repassing Hamilton into the Becketts complex. Hamilton was having none of it, though, and reclaimed the advantage at Stowe, only for Carroll to take advantage of his rival looking to pass Pantano at Abbey, jumping back into fifth through Bridge. Again, Hamilton refused to yield, sliding up the inside of the Northern Irishman at Priory to finally make the move stick as they crossed the line.

Forgotten in all the incident behind, Porteiro led a GP2 race for the first time, having held off the better-starting Piccione into Copse and eased out a gap over the rest of the lap. Piquet, too, was on the move, having got the better of Pantano to lie third overall.

The order among the points positions remained the same, despite Hamilton taking another look at Pantano between Becketts and Stowe on lap four, but, further back, the two Arden drivers got into one another at Abbey, although it appeared that Michael Ammermuller had a helping hand from fellow rookie Franck Perera before hitting stand-in Neel Jani and ending both Red Bull-backed cars' race.

The stranded cars brought out the fourth GP2 safety car of the weekend, but this time it played into Hamilton's hands, as the Briton timed his restart to perfection, inching alongside Pantano at the line and then leaving the Italian with no defence into Copse. Once through, he was quickly onto the tail of the Piccione/Piquet battle and, in a moment of IRL proportions, chose the next lap to take a breathtaking three-abreast risk into Maggotts.

Piquet started the moment by pulling alongside Piccione to the Monegasque's left, while Hamilton opted for the inside of the first Becketts right-hander. Piccione, perhaps sensibly, braked slightly, as Piquet ran out of road and took to the grass, clattering a hoarding as he went. Hamilton, with the luck engendered by success on his side, found clearer passage and, in a trice, was through to second spot. Piccione, despite momentum lost, was still third, while Pantano found himself jumped by Carroll. Piquet, having rejoined slowly in front of the FMS and Racing Engineering machines, was pushed out of the points, as the fast-recovering Glock to his place in the top six.

Having cleared the roadblock presented by Piccione and Piquet, Hamilton wasted no time in closing the gap to leader Porteiro, hitherto untroubled by those behind. Unused to making it past lap twelve in any sprint race this season, the Campos driver actually led for the same distance, resisting the new championship favourite for a couple of tours before the inevitable happened. The Spaniard was visibly no match for Hamilton, but the ART man spent two laps sizing him up before, finally, making several wheel-to-wheel moments between Abbey and Prior stick at Brooklands, aptly in front of the assembled BRDC hierarchy.

From there, the Briton was home free, and proceeded to stretch his legs over the remaining ten laps, taking nearly a second out of his pursuers with every pass of the start-finish line.

Determined not to be completely cast in the shadow of his fellow Briton, however, Carroll was also on the move, finally finding away past Piccione into Stowe on lap 14. The move, executed as per text book, was good enough to give the racing Engineering man a second podium of the weekend, his best haul of an often frustrating season.

Despite pressing on in inimitable style, however, Carroll was unable to make a dent in Porteiro's slight advantage, the young Spaniard giving Campos Racing its best result in GP2, surpassing team-mate Adrian Valles third place at the season-opener in Valencia.

After that, the real action took place outside the points and, after both committing faux pas before the start, was highlighted by the antics of the two iSport drivers. Although starting right at the back, Glock eventually wound up in seventh, passing an unexpectedly solid Fairuz Fauzy on lap 21, but only after swapping places with Viso, who no doubt realises that he will now face stiffer opposition from within than he did alongside the absent Tristan Gommendy.

With the mid-season break now looming as Formula One jets off for its trans-Atlantic sojourn in Montreal and Indianapolis, Hamilton's fifth win of the year - and the errors of his rivals - opens out a 22-point cushion over Piquet, the only one of the top six to score on Sunday.

This time last year, ART Grand Prix found something at the mid-season test that allowed Premat and Nico Rosberg to regularly take the fight to Arden and Heikki Kovalainen, the German eventually prevailing on his way to a grand prix berth. This year, it found that something at the start of the season. His name was Lewis Hamilton.

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