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.
The GP2 final race proved today that it is definitely possible to overtake without DRS at Yas Marina. Polesitter Fabio Leimer had a good start while Dani Clos fell between Josef Kral and Luiz Razia. They went three-wide into the first corner – Luiz Razia came out on top while Clos caused Kral to spin and soon retired himself. Behind, Jolyon Palmer found himself in third place, with a few other drivers behind including GP3’s Tom Dillmann.
Max Chilton was another early retiree, as his brakes stopped working and he hit the barrier at turn one. Esteban Gutierrez had technical problems and finished a lap behind along with Stephane Richelmi.
During the race there were scraps up and down the field. Marcus Ericsson overtook his teammate and eventually finished fourth, but he was battling closely with Palmer through the final laps. Fifth was Kevin Ceccon, much improved since his first stint in GP2 earlier in the season. Then came three GP3 drivers – Tom Dillmann, Antonio Felix da Costa, and James Calado. But in my opinion Tom Dillmann has been the best of the rookies so far, displaying great pace throughout the weekend.
Fabio Leimer took the fastest lap on the way to victory, and Luiz Razia did not let him escape too far ahead. Jolyon Palmer also showed himself well with Addax as he took his first ever points finish and podium.
Tomorrow, the first three grid positions will be taken by Calado, da Costa and Dillmann. Good luck GP3 grads!
Addax have confirmed that Jolyon Palmer, who drove for Arden this season, will be one of their two drivers for the GP2 final in Abu Dhabi. The second will be American Jake Rosenzweig from Formula Renault. At Ocean Racing, French driver Nicolas Marroc will be joining Antonio Felix da Costa. Marroc currently drives in the International GT Open, but last year took part in the F3 Euroseries. He is the third Frenchman currently signed up for the final.
The remaining seats to be announced are at Arden and Super Nova.
In the young drivers’ test, Dani Clos (GP2) will be driving for HRT; Renault/Lotus will have Formula Renault 3.5 champion Robert Wickens, Estonian Kevin Korjus, and their reserve driver Jan Charouz; and Max Chilton will be driving for Force India.
Korjus will be only the second Estonian to drive an F1 car, and along with Kevin Ceccon will be one of the first drivers called ‘Kevin’ in an F1 car since 1981.
Race of Champions
Marussia Virgin’s Timo Glock will be competing in the ROC alongside Timo Scheider, the German touring car star. They will make up a second German team, with the first being Schumacher and Vettel.
In other news, former F1 driver for Williams and Team Lotus and American CART champion Alex Zanardi, who was injured in a CART accident in 2001, has won the New York Marathon handcycling class. Good work!
Jolyon Palmer – 26
Jolyon Palmer, son of Jonathan Palmer, came to GP2 this season having finished runner-up in the 2010 F2 championship. He’s a member of Arden, but has so far struggled to get into the points. There are a lot of drivers who have barely finished outside the points, and with two 9th place finishes Jolyon is one of them. These have come in the Valencia feature race and the Istanbul sprint – neither of which were particularly bad at taking out drivers. On the other hand, he has also found himself struggling at the back of the pack in many races. He needs to improve his consistency in order to be able to challenge for points.
Best qualifying: 11 (Silverstone)
Worst qualifying: 22 (Barcelona, Nurburgring)
Best finish: 9th (Istanbul sprint, Valencia feature)
Worst finish: 22nd (Hungaroring feature)
Retirements: 3 (1 classified) and 1 non-classified finish
Julian Leal – 25
Italian-Columbian driver Julian Leal switched licenses mid-way through the season. Like Jolyon, he has managed two ninth-place finishes but also needs to work on his consistency. He drives for Rapax, who through Fabio Leimer have scored 10 points this season.
Best qualifying: 15 (Silverstone)
Worst qualifying: 26 (Barcelona – 5 place grid penalty)
Best finish: 9 (Valencia and Nurburgring sprints)
Worst finish: 22 (Silverstone feature)