Photo: GP2 Media Service
Davide Valsecchi dominates the the first of the GP2 weekends in Bahrain, while Stoffel Vandoorne wins twice at the Formula Renault NEC opener at Hockenheim…
In the opening weekend of the season in Malaysia, GP2 Series veteran Davide Valsecchi failed to make the most of the pole position he scored, only taking a second-place away from the weekend. Moving onto round two in Bahrain, and the Italian driver utterly dominated the weekend.
He was more than six tenths clear in free practice, and the best part of three tenths ahead in qualifying. In the feature race he drove away at the front, taking a comfortable win despite a mid-race safety car.
There was a manic battle for the positions behind. Esteban Gutierrez held second up until the pitstops after qualifying on the front row, but a slow stop allowed Malaysia winner Luiz Razia to come out ahead. Both meanwhile dropped behind the British pairing of Max Chilton and James Calado.
Chilton dallied while trying to get past the slower Nathanael Berthon, still to stop, and Calado made a wonderful opportunistic move down the inside of both of them. Razia followed him through. Behind, well-backed Venezuelan Johnny Cecotto clashed with exciting rookie Felipe Nasr as they fought over sixth place, taking both out of the race in an incident that the stewards blamed upon Nasr, to many’s surprise.
After the resultant safety car, Razia managed to get by Calado for second place, with the Brit then suffering badly with tyre degredation and falling to fifth. Gutierrez recovered to snatch third from Chilton on the last lap with a brilliantly-judged move. Tom Dillmann climbed up the order to finish sixth just behind fellow GP3 graduate Calado.
Race two saw Calado make a supreme start to jump from fourth to first in a matter of metres – albeit maybe helped by the absence of Dillmann after the Frenchman stalled on a second warmup lap, called for after Nasr had ground to a halt before even making it to the grid. Calado was joined out front by Lotus teammate Gutierrez, and the pair duked it out for the lead, even making contact that caused Gutierrez to lose part of his front wing.
Front row starter Fabio Leimer benefited from this, and moved into the lead. Heading towards victory however he was handed a drive-through penalty for ignoring yellow flags. Gutierrez took up the lead, but soon had Valsecchi closing in on him in the closing laps. He reeled him in in no time at all and got around him at Turn 2 on the very last lap. He became the first double winner of a GP2 round since Nico Hulkenberg in Germany 2009.
Calado made it both Lotus cars on the podium, ahead of Razia and Chilton, while Nasr made an amazing comeback after starting in the pits to finish sixth in just 22 laps.
Valsecchi picks up a 13 point lead over Razia in the standings, and will hope to do it all again as GP2 remains in Bahrain for another two races this weekend.
Formula Renault NEC
Nearly 40 cars lined up for the opening round of the Formula Renault Northern European Cup at Hockenheim in Germany. Belgium’s Stoffel Vandoorne set the pace in qualifying to claim pole position for the first two of three races. Frenchman and Formula Renault 2.0 debutant Pierre Gasly took the lead on the first lap of the opening race though, but Vandoorne soon had it back.
Rain began to fall in the middle of the race and Gasly brought out the safety car by crashing into Pieter Schothorst and Josh Hill. It then began to hail, and the race was red flagged briefly in order to let the teams change tyres. After the restart, Brits Jordan King and Jake Dennis took up second and third places behind Vandoorne who recorded the first win of the season. French F4 graduate Andrea Pizzitola was fourth, ahead of fifth-year FR2.0 driver Kevin Kleveros and Formula Ford convert Jeroen Slaghekke.
Vandoorne again failed to keep the race lead from pole in race two, this time losing out to Dennis. The Racing Steps Foundation driver went on to claim victory, marking a great start to his first full season in Formula Renault and only his second in cars. Pizzitola and Hill completed the podium ahead of Alex Riberas, King and McLaren protege Nyck de Vries - making his car racing debut this weekend. Vandoorne was classified down in 19th place.
Race three saw the grid formed by reversing the top six finishers from race one, putting Slaghekke on pole. Kleveros took the lead at the start however, before heavy rain caused the race to be stopped again. Pizzitola took the lead after the restart, but it was Vandoorne who came through to win, with Dennis and Pizzitola completing the podium. Riberas took fourth on the last lap, ahead of King and Kleveros.
Dennis leads the points ahead of Vandoorne and Pizzitola, with a two month break before the next round at the Nurburgring. Before then, many of the drivers will be taking part in the Eurocup season opener at Motorland Aragon in two weeks’ time.
The second round of the British Intersteps Championship took place at Donington Park. Caterham protege Matt Parry won the first two races – the first with a whopping margin of 17 seconds over his nearest competitor. In race three he received a drive-through penalty for a jump start, which saw Jack Aitken prevail the winner. Outlon Park victor Matt Mason finished all three races in second place. Telmex-supported Franco Aragones made his series debut meanwhile, with a best result of sixth.
PaddockScout Driver of the Weekend: Davide Valsecchi – Good performances from Vandoorne and Dennis amongst others this weekend, but Valsecchi tops the lot.