Andreas Zuber took his first win in the GP2 Series in a frenetic sprint race at Istanbul Park, but the Austrian's achievement was put in the shade by Lewis Hamilton's recovery from a lap two spin that took him to the second step of the podium.

The points leader appeared to have ceded more ground to chief pursuer Nelson Piquet Jr, after losing their first wheel-to-wheel battle off the line and then spinning off a kerb on the second tour, but charged back through the field from 14th to claim five vital points and add a bonus for fastest lap that sees him head to the final double-header, at Monza, with a ten-point cushion over the Brazilian.

Zuber took control of the race from the start, making the most of a cautious getaway by poleman Alex Negrao to head the field into turn one. Negrao's sluggishness also left him at the mercy of Adam Carroll, the pair touching wheels as the went through the opening turn before the Brazilian regained the advantage.

Hamilton, meanwhile, got his first taste of the wheel-to-wheel action with Piquet that he said had been missing from their title fight to date, but came off worse as the Brazilian muscled his way through to claim an early fifth place. The second ART entry, of Alex Premat, should have been in the mix, having started ahead of Piquet on the grid, but made a poor start and wound up tenth on the opening lap.

Lap two began with Giorgio Pantano, Luca Filippi and Clivio Piccione heading off into the turn one wilderness, but was possibly the most action-packed in GP2's short history, with spinners and close calls galore. Ernesto Viso was lucky to miss one rotating rival, but then suffered a spin of his own as he attempted to correct his avoidance. The excitement wasn't over for the Venezuelan though as, a little further round the lap, he was forced to go wheel-to-wheel with Hamilton, after the Briton attempted to recover from a spin of his own.

The ART car appeared to have taken a little too much kerb as Hamilton attempted to get back on terms with Piquet, but rotated to the side of the road. The driver managed to keep its engine running and, having waited for several cars to pass, booted it back into action just as the next few came through. Somehow, no contact was made, although Viso was not about to make the Briton's recovery easy.

Once underway, however, Hamilton launched himself into a mercurial comeback that would see lesser mortals picked off with regularity, although one early pass appeared perilously close to waved yellows. That scare averted, Ferdinando Monfardini, Franck Perera and Hiroki Yoshimoto were all despatched in the space of a lap, although the Frenchman at least put up some resistance for eleventh spot.

Whilst Hamilton was beginning his charge, his title rival's lot was improved by the disappearance of team-mate Negrao from second. Carroll was quick to seize on the opportunity to close on Zuber, the pair circulating nose-to-tail for several laps, while Timo Glock and Piquet both moved up a place as they battled over what was now third. Piquet got a run on the German into turn eleven on lap seven, only to receive robust defence from the iSport driver, who regained the spot two corners later.

His momentum stunted, Piquet then found Lucas di Grassi passing him into the first corner of the next lap, and had to trail his fellow Brazilian for the best part of three miles before barrelling past under braking for turn eleven.

That same spot was quickly becoming Hamilton's overtaking place of choice, the Briton slamming past Jose Maria Lopez under braking for ninth, and then benefiting from some acute awareness from ART team-mate Premat, who left the door open on the second part of the chicane to gift eighth place while keeping Lopez at bay.

One lap later, while Hamilton was closing down on the next target, Piquet chose turn eleven to remount his assault on Glock, again getting alongside the German before being demoted once again at turn 13.

Completely overshadowing the scrap for the lead, Hamilton picked off Sergio Hernandez next time around, then added Nicolas Lapierre to his list, again at turn eleven, to move into the points for the first time. One more lap and di Grassi also fell under the Briton's wheels, leaving fellow Brazilian Piquet next in Hamilton's sights.

The ART driver had already notched up one fastest lap during his fightback and, although the next couple of laps passed off without any major incident, it wasn't long before the two title contenders were running nose-to-tail, with Glock as the third man in the battle, still ahead of them.

Unsurprisingly, Hamilton chose his favoured spot to make a move on Piquet, the Brazilian realising that it was futile to resist with a six-point gap still separating them in the standings. He would also have learned from his own experience, however, and knew that Glock would not make life easy for his rival. Hamilton went wheel-to-wheel with the iSport car through turns 11-13 next time around, then tried to squeeze between it and the pit-wall as they headed into lap 18. Glock came out marginally on top of those encounters, but Hamilton was not about to give up and the pair made contact again through the opening sequence of corners.

Although Glock again emerged in third place, Hamilton's progress was slowed enough for Piquet to take another look, regaining fourth spot. His joy was short-lived, however, as Hamilton's pace again proved too much going into eleven, the white machine scything alongside its blue-hued rival, this time on the outside. Fourth retaken, Hamilton set off after Glock once more, closing onto the German's tail into the chicane two laps later. Again Glock resisted, but made a minor error of line exiting turn 13, giving Hamilton the opportunity he had been looking for. The iSport car had no answer going into turn one, and the Briton was free to continue his ascent.

By this time, Zuber had shaken off the attentions of Carroll and eased into a one second lead that would serve him well to the end of the 23-lap encounter. The Ulsterman, however, was far from safe, as Hamilton racked up another fastest lap with two tours to go, closing in on the Racing Engineering entry. Heading into the final lap, Carroll held the advantage, but he too found that he had no answer to Hamilton on the brakes into turn eleven.

Zuber duly crossed the line to claim Trident Racing's third win of the year, but the joy in his cockpit was nothing to compare with that in the car behind, Hamilton punching the air as if he had not only won the race, but also the championship. On this form, he may have done just that.

 

Comments

Loading Comments...