GP2: Algarve finale sees ART triumph
By LJ Hutchins
Monday, September 21st, 2009
Nico Hulkenberg took 10 points from the inaugural GP2 visit to the Portimao circuit on Portugal’s Algarve to add a constructors’ title for his ART team to his own drivers’ championship win.
The last weekend of the main series’ season was a testing one for a clutch of drivers unfamiliar with the technically-demanding circuit, with rain during the early sessions adding to their learning curve.
A host of penalties given to drivers in both races significantly influenced the outcome of the weekend. Five drivers were penalised following race one, and a further six including Hulkenberg were given drive-through penalties in race two after overtaking the safety car.
And former Barwa Addax driver Romain Grosjean still finished fourth in the championship despite not taking part in the final four events.
Here’s the full story of how the weekend played out:
Practice: Hulkenberg outdone on drying track
Securing the drivers’ championship at Monza had not dampened the ardour of ART’s Nico HÃ¼lkenberg – and neither did a wet first practice session. The German set the early pace but, as the track dried, Super Nova’s Luca Filippi who claimed the top spot as the clock ran out, ahead of Durango’s Davide Valsecchi and iSport’s Diego Nunes.
HÃ¼lkenberg led for much of the first session with Filippi, Piquet’s Alberto Valerio and Racing Engineering’s Dani Clos briefly claiming the top spot. But the champion’s best lap of 1:50.343 was ultimately three-tenths of a second ahead of the opposition.
With the second session opening 30 minutes later, a dry line soon formed, allowing Racing Engineering’s Lucas di Grassi and Ocean’s Alvaro Parente to set the pace. But not until the final ten minutes was the circuit dry enough for real heroics. Filippi crossed the line on his final lap to claim a time of 1:32.894, six tenths ahead of countryman Valsecchi.
Qualifying: Petrov snatches pole to lead Barwa’s constructors’ challenge
Barwa Addax’ Vitaly Petrov took pole in the closing minutes of qualifying, claiming the top spot ahead of Clos and HÃ¼lkenberg. The Russian’s best time of 1:30.819 was set with two minutes remaining, leaving HÃ¼lkenberg and Clos out of time within a tenth of the top spot.
Filippi set the early pace until the pitstops, after which di Grassi and Piquet’s Roldan Rodriguez both put the hammer down on a rapidly-heating track. It was Petrov who held his nerve for his second consecutive pole position.
Hulkenberg found himself on the second row alongside di Grassi. In fifth was Valsecchi with Rodriguez sixth, Valerio seventh and Hulkenberg’s ART team-mate Pastor Maldonado eighth.
No fewer than 15 drivers were within a second of pole – but they did not include Parente, who was unable to set a time on his home circuit thanks to a gearbox problem.
Race one: Hulkenberg leads ART to constructors’ victory
HÃ¼lkenberg did his bit to move his ART team towards a constructors’ victory in the feature race, harassing race leader Petrov before claiming the lead following his pitstop to lead home Filippi and di Grassi.
Petrov led the field into turn one, with HÃ¼lkenberg and di Grassi roaring past the slow-starting Dani Clos to slot in behind him. Behind them Edoardo Mortara and Javier Villa came together at the first corner leaving the Italian stranded in the middle of the track, prompting a safety car period.
The status quo was maintained after the restart, with Petrov valiantly holding off Hulkenberg. Further back Filippi stopped as soon as the pitlane opened and set a string of fastest laps that easily outstripped Petrov. In front of a batch of clearly quicker rivals the Russian did his best to hold on but HÃ¼lkenberg, Filippi and di Grassi all managed to jump him in the pitstops.
HÃ¼lkenberg ran home ten seconds ahead of Filippi who, with wrecked tyres, just managed to beat di Grassi into third. Petrov hung onto fourth, one second behind the leading group. Rodriguez was five seconds back in fifth with DPR’s Michael Herck, scoring his first ever GP2 points, in sixth.
DAMS’ Kamui Kobayashi moved through the field from 18th on the grid to seventh, while Petrov’s Barwa team-mate Valsecchi finished eighth, meaning that ART reclaimed the title for the first time since 2006 – with Lewis Hamilton.
Michael Herck was subsequently disqualified from race one and a number of other drivers were handed penalties by the race stewards. Scrutineering checks on Herck’s car established that it was too low and therefore not in compliance with the regulations. He was excluded from the results but was permitted to start race two from the rear of the grid.
As a result of the exclusion Kobayashi was promoted to sixth place, Valsecchi moved up to seventh and Coloni’s Andreas Zuber took the final point plus the race two pole.
Herck was also judged to have cut the second corner at the start of the race, along with Ricardo Teixiera, Davide Rigon and Jerome d’Ambrosio. The Trident teammates were given 25 second time penalties, with Rigon dropping from ninth to fourteenth place, one ahead of Teixiera, while Herck received the same penalty but had it superseded by the exclusion.
D’Ambrosio was set to lose five grid places after he failed to finish race one. Giedo van der Garde was also handed a penalty for cutting the corner, in his case after the restart, and failing to give back the position. As he did not finish the race, the Dutchman was also due to lose five spots on the race two grid.
Race two: Victory for a strong Filippi
Filippi took victory in the final race of the season through a combination of deft overtaking and benefiting from others’ penalties to comfortably lead home the field ahead of Arden’s Sergio Perez and Super Nova’s Javier Villa.
The Italian started from seventh on the grid but dropped one place to Perez at the first turn. Meanwhile poleman Zuber led the field serenely away as Valsecchi, di Grassi and Kobayashi slotted in behind him.
Further back Petrov failed to get off the line, and Herck rear-ended him, prompting a red flag period as the medical team sent the drivers for checks and the marshals cleared the track.
The safety car led the field around for one lap after which Zuber overtook it, taking Valsecchi, di Grassi, Kobayashi, HÃ¼lkenberg and Maldonado with him. All six drivers were handed a drive-through penalty for their actions.
Zuber still managed to put clear air between himself and rivals as Filippi sliced through the field to dispose of Perez, HÃ¼lkenberg and Kobayashi before the penalties came into effect. He led home Perez by four seconds, with Villa a further four seconds back in third.
Clos held on for fourth and his first points of the season despite constant pressure in the second half of the race by Parente, who clained two points from an otherwise disappointing home race. Nunes held on from teammate Giedo van der Garde for the final points position of the year.
Final season standings (points-scorers only listed):
- Nicolas HÃ¼lkenberg, ART: 100 points
- Vitaly Petrov, Barwa Addax: 75 points
- Lucas Di Grassi, Racing Engineering: 63 points
- Romain Grosjean, Barwa Addax: 45 points
- Luca Filippi, Super Nova: 40 points
- Pastor Maldonado, ART: 36 points
- Giedo van der Garde, iSport: 34 points
- Alvaro Parente, Ocean: 30 points
- JÃ©rÃ´me d’Ambrosio, DAMS: 29 points
- Javier Villa, Super Nova: 27 points
- Roldan Rodriguez, Piquet: 25 points
- Sergio PÃ©rez, Arden: 22 points
- Andreas Zuber, FMS: 21 points
- Edoardo Mortara, Arden: 19 points
- Alberto Valerio, Piquet: 16 points
- Kamui Kobayashi, DAMS: 13 points
- Davide Valsecchi, Durango/Barwa Addax: 12 points
- Karun Chandhok, Ocean: 10 points
- Luis Razia, Scuderia Coloni: 8 points
- Diego Nunes, iSport: 8 points
- Dani Clos, Racing Engineering: 4 points
- Davide Rigon, Trident: 3 points