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.
HRT passed their crash tests, and hope to be present for at least some of the final test session in Barcelona. Marussia, however, were not so lucky. They have failed their final crash test and will not be able to properly test the car until first practice in Melbourne.
A clarification of F1 regulations means that Red Bull and Ferrari will only be able to test their cars from Thursday until Sunday. Teams are not allowed to test in the week before the first race of the season, which the teams believed meant from the Monday before the race. However, the regulations have been clarified to mean the first Monday-Sunday week without an event before the first race of the season. This also means that Lotus will not be able to have five days of testing after they missed out at the last test.
As testing commences, more drivers have been confirmed. Luiz Razia has changed to Arden, while Caterham brings in their F1 tester Giedo van der Garde, and Venezuelan Rodolfo Gonzalez.
Present at the test but not confirmed for 2012 are Nathanael Berthon (Racing Engineering), Dani Clos and Daniel de Jong (Rapax), Vittorio Ghirelli (Lazarus) and Tom Dillmann (Ocean Racing Tech).
This morning the fastest driver was DAMS’s Davide Valsecchi, second was Fabio Onidi (Trident), third was 2010 F2 runner-up Jolyon Palmer (iSport). Palmer’s teammate Marcus Ericsson was fourth-fastest. Notably both Lotus GP/ART drivers set great times, with Gutierrez fifth and GP3 graduate Calado sixth.
There were two great races today in Abu Dhabi. First the GP2 cars fought under the sun, and then the F1 cars chased each other in the early evening. The F1 report will come later.
James Calado, ART’s new signing for 2012, started from pole. He was closely chased in the race, particularly in the first few laps when there were less than three seconds between the top five: Calado, da Costa, Ericsson, Razia and Dillmann. But Calado maintained his lead, eventually pulling away as da Costa was under pressure from Ericsson and eventually gave way. Next it was Razia’s turn. The AirAsia driver got ahead, and da Costa severely cut the corner to get the position back. He was given a drive-through penalty.
Mihai Marinescu crashed, causing yellow flags which were ignored once by Razia and Leal, but twice by Ricci. Leal and Razia both had drive-through penalties, while Ricci had a stop-and-go. By the final lap, there was a massive battle for fifth with Leimer pushing Stefano Coletti. Behind were Esteban Gutierrez, Kevin Ceccon, Alex Rossi and Luiz Razia. Leimer tangled with Coletti, putting the Monegasque driver out. The final lap was an almighty scrap, with several drivers going wide on the final corner. Gutierrez, who had started 21st, took fifth. Ceccon took sixth. Rossi and Razia came seventh and eighth, allowing the Brazilian to take the point for fastest lap.
Marcus Ericsson finished second behind Calado, while his iSport teammate and GP3 graduate Tom Dillmann came third. Jolyon Palmer finished fourth. As the best GP3 graduates, Calado and Dillmann earn monetary rewards from Pirelli; they had equal points, but Calado’s win gives him the 15,000 Euros.
GP2’s iSport International team today announced half of their 2012 lineup, along with their two drivers for the final in two weeks’ time. Marcus Ericsson, one half of the team’s lineup this season, will continue to race for them next year and will also participate in the final. Alongside him in Abu Dhabi will be GP3’s Tom Dillmann. As far as I am aware, Tom is the second GP3 driver to be signed up for the final after James Calado.
For the final, Pirelli will be awarding a cash prize to the top two points-scoring GP3 graduates; 15,000 Euros to the best, and 10,000 to the second-best. Hopefully, more GP3 graduates will be signed up to give Tom and James a run for their money.
For the current finals lineup and 2012 lineup, check the links above in the GP2 section.
Sam Bird – 5
iSport’s Sam Bird has had an up and down season, and he is now the lowest-placed driver still matematically able to win the championship. His season began well, taking podiums in his first three races and fastest lap in the Istanbul feature. He also came fifth in the Barcelona sprint. His pole position at Monaco was no surprise, and though he failed to finish the race after stalling off the line he still led the championship. But Romain Grosjean quickly came back while Sam was pointless in the second race.
The Brit has had plenty of points finishes since then, though no more podiums. His qualifying performance has also dropped off in the last couple of races. But there should be more to come in Belgium and Italy.
Best qualifying: 1
Worst qualifying: 11
Best finish: 2 (Istanbul feature)
Worst finish: 17 (Hungaroring feature)
Marcus Ericsson – 9
Marcus Ericsson and his teammate Sam Bird have had an interesting season. The lowest point came at the Monaco Grand Prix, when Sam was starting on pole. After he stalled, the two drivers ended up competing with each other, and took each other out in the feature race. They had another altercation in the sprint, causing Marcus to retire.
Well, whatever iSport did it got them friendly again, and they have both been challenging well for championship points so that iSport are currently third in the championship. Swede Marcus has picked up two podiums this season and also had a fourth place and three fifth places. At Istanbul he was the guy who missed out on the points in both races (9th in the feature, 8th in the sprint) and he had a good sprint in Valencia to come back to 11th after retiring in the feature to start 24th for the next race. Qualifying-wise he is getting better, having had a few bad ones but not out of the top ten for the last three rounds. In fact, he started third at the Hungaroring – his best of the year.
Three cars went out on the first lap of the first GP2 race of 2011, but for once none of them were Luiz Razia. Max Chilton, Fabio Liemer and Esteban Gutierrez all crashed out early on, and the safety car led the field for a while. But Romain Grosjean retained his first place.
There was overtaking all over the place. Michael Herck recieved a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Davide Valsecchi managed to overtake his teammate, having started way behind him, then was overtaken but was driving in P8. However, his car had a broken front wing, forcing him to pit. He finished P16, but definitely had a Webber-esque performance.
The winner was Romain Grosjean, being harried by Sam Bird right at the end, with Jules Bianchi third. Van der Garde came P4, Coletti P5, Razia P6, Pic P7 and Clos P8 after a great start. These positions will be reversed for the race tomorrow. All but Stefano Coletti have driven in the GP2 series before. Coletti is a GP3 graduate, and shining already!
Alex Sims has had his fastest lap deleted after going outside the bounds of the track. He will now start from P12.