Former Caterham teammates Davide Valsecchi and Luiz Razia showed their talent today by putting their cars on the front row for the feature race at Sepang. Valsecchi, who was not penalised for setting a fast final sector in practice under yellow flags (he was probably past the incident when it happened), took pole for DAMS just ahead of Razia’s Arden. Valsecchi was dismissive of his achievement, remembering that what really matters is the race. “Having the pole position today but a bad result tomorrow then you throw away your weekend.” Surprisingly, it is only the third pole he has achieved in GP2 – once in his title-winning Asia campaign, and once in 2010.
Luiz Razia, however, was much happier. Afer a tricky 2011, Arden will be delighted to find themselves on the front row. Razia believes that his team’s tyre strategy could pay off, as he things they will be taking a different route with the primes/options to others.
On the second row, Carlin’s Max Chilton showed just how well he and the team are working together in their second year of GP2. The consistent Brit belives he could have gone even faster if he hadn’t hit traffic on the final corner, so we will have to see what happens in the race.
Fastest in practice was Jolyon Palmer, the first to try out the medium tyres, will start 7th. Apart from Razia, the remained of the top eight are drivers whom I believe could win the championship: P4 – Coletti; P5 – Leimer; P6 – Calado; P7 – Palmer; P8 – van der Garde. Felipe Nazr qualified 10th but will start 9th after Fabio Onidi was given a three-place grid penalty for impeding Rodolfo Gonzalez. Esteban Gutierrez starts a disappointing 15th, while Marcus Ericsson starts 20th. The gap from first to 24th was 1.5s.
Dry sessions allowed good running for the teams, and Lewis Hamilton topped both sessions for McLaren. Mercedes and Alonso were also going well, with Red Bull and Toro Rosso close behind.
There were no major incidents and despite threats of rain it never came.
Scuderia Coloni have announced their lineup for the 2012 GP2 season. Contrary to earlier resports, Kevin Ceccon has not signed with the team. Instead, it will be partnering Stefano Coletti with Febio Onidi. Coletti is entering his second full year of GP2, having won two races last season – the sprints in Turkey and Hungary – as well as the sprint in Abu Dhabi in GP2 Asia. Having come from a rookie year in GP3 where he only finished 9th, this was particularly impressive. The Monegasque driver looks like he will be the fourth driver from that country to reach F1 after Louis Chiron (1950-58), Andre Testut (1958-9) and Olivier Beretta (1994). Though injured in the GP2 feature race in Belgium, he returned for Coloni at the GP2 final where he finished 10th in the feature race.
Italian Fabio Onidi comes to GP2 from Auto GP, where he finished 5th overall. He won the second race at Monza, picking up two more podiums later in the season and gaining just 31 points less than Kevin Ceccon. In 2009 he came third in Euroseries 3000 and Italian F3000 for Coloni, though he came second in the same series the year before. Clearly a driver of potential, it will be interesting to see what the Italian team can do with their signings. Though they only came 7th last season, their fortunes were boosted by Luca Filippi, and he brought them up from the bottom of the table to take three wins and five fastest laps. Admittedly they were hampered by the loss of Davide Rigon, who was injured in the sprint race at the first round of the season.
Hopefully they will be spared injuries this year, and go on to do well in the championship.
Meanwhile, Max Chilton – who drove for Carlin in GP2 for 2011 – has tweeted “Already looking forward to the #GP2 season opener in Sepang, Malaysia in 72 days!” There are connections between Carlin and the team his brother Tom drives for in touring cars, and it is likely Max will stay with the British team for this season.
Vettel on pole, Williams having problems, Force India not really trying in Q3… nothing new then. But it was an incredibly exciting qualifying session. Heikki Kovalainen had a chance at Q2 with Rubens Barrichello’s car problems not allowing him to run, but was unable to get ahead of Schumacher. Daniel Ricciardo beat his teammate again, showing good form in the HRT.
In Q2, a red flag halted a fast lap from Vettel. It had been caused by an unnamed driver taking out one of the bollards, which was left dangerously in the middle of the track. Hamilton went fastest, setting a 1:38.4. Pastor Maldonado finished 17th, which will demote him to 23rd tomrrow after his grid penalty. Two Williams on the back of the grid is very much symbolic of the team’s terrible 2011 season. Neither Sauber, Renault or Toro Rosso made it through to the final session, leaving five teams to challenge for top spot.
But realistically it came down to the McLarens and Vettel. After the first set of hot laps, it was close, and then they went out again. Button was first, Hamilton second, and Vettel a good way behind them all in clear space. First, Button took P1, then Hamilton. Hope filled McLaren despite Hamilton’s lap not being as good as his Q2 time. But then, Vettel did it again. He went a few hundredths slower than the Brit’s Q2 time, but it didn’t matter. He was still on pole.
Simon Trummer and Fabio Onidi have both been penalised following today’s race. Simon Trummer receives a 10-place grid penalty for tomorrow after a collision with Jake Rosenzweig that took both of them out; Fabio Onidi was discovered to have been ignoring yellow flags and has twenty seconds added to his race time in place of a drive-through penalty.
From 2008-2010, Giacomo Ricci competed in GP2 for DPR. He has never completed a full season, and only picked up points on three occasions. However, since the third occasion was his maiden victory in the series following an eighth place finish in the Hungarian sprint race, it does seem a little unfair.
His former team DPR are no longer in GP2, and today Ricci is signed up for the Abu Dhabi final alongside Favio Onidi for Super Nova Racing. Onidi has had a long racing career, but has been struggling to get up the ladder despite finishing second in Euroseries 3000 and Italian F3000 in 2008, and third in both series in 2009. He moved to Auto GP last season, this year finishing fifth including three podiums.