GP2: Hulkenberg net winner after troubled weekend

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, August 30th, 2009

 
 

Nico Hulkenberg looks to be two weekends away from securing this year’s GP2 championship after extending his lead during a troubled weekend at Spa-Francorchamps – despite a retirement in the sprint race.

Too much of the action took place off the track with the former Fisichella Motor Sport team, having reverted back entirely to Scuderia Coloni ownership, unable to race after its cars were impounded in a financial dispute with former driver Andy Soucek.

Meanwhile a pitlane accident left a Trident mechanic in hospital with severe head injuries and Durango’s new recruit Stefano Coletti exited the feature race by way of a hard smash into the barriers that saw him airlifted to hospital too.

Both races on the testing Spa circuit featured multiple retirements and safety car periods in a weekend that started wet and ended in more or less in chaos. Here’s how events played out:

Practice: Maldonado tops wet session

ART’s Pastor Maldonado claimed the fastest time on a drying track following a largely wet free practice, setting his time on the last lap after changing to slicks to finish ahead of Ocean’s Alvaro Parente and iSport’s Giedo van der Garde.

Maldonado’s best time of 2:04.889 put him almost a second ahead of Parente, although his team-mate Hülkenberg, who set much of the running earlier in the session, looked likely to take the position – until he pulled into the pitlane instead of crossing the line.

In the session’s closing minutes Hülkenberg, Maldonado and Parente all risked a set of slicks, leaving them easily able to beat their previous attempts and top the timesheet.

Off-track Coloni Motorsport, known as Fisichella Motorsport International until a recent buy-back by the Coloni family, saw its cars impounded as part of an ongoing legal dispute with Formula Two championship leader Soucek, signed to drive for the team in 2008 and then replaced by Roldan Rodriguez.

Qualifying: Parente takes Ocean’s first pole

Parente claimed Ocean Racing’s first pole position with a flying lap at the session’s close to take the top slot by less than a tenth of a second ahead of Lucas di Grassi and Hülkenberg.

The Portuguese driver set a time of 1:54.970 thanks to timing that put him on a clear track as his rivals stumbled, leaving him a straightforward run to pole.

A dry track following the previous day’s wet practice led to a fast pace. Racing Engineering’s di Grassi, Arden’s Sergio Perez and Hülkenberg set the early running until a spin from Trident’s Davide Rigon brought out the red flags.

Ocean’s Karun Chandhok set the fastest lap when the session was restarted, but Hülkenberg reclaimed the top spot a few minutes later. However di Grassi immediately beat his time to put himself in an excellent position to claim pole.

The front-runners pitted for fresh tyres and a final run with five minutes left. Vitaly Petrov and Hülkenberg caught traffic as Parente set his best time and, with one minute to go, Rodriguez stopped on track to bring the session to an early close.

Behind the top three iSport’s Diego Nunes finished fourth ahead of Petrov, Chandhok, Perez and Rodriguez, who were all within three tenths of a second of pole.

Post-qualifying penalty

Di Grassi and Franck Perera received penalties after discussing their sessions with the race stewards following qualifying. Di Grassi was due to drop three grid positions after being judged to have impeded Karun Chandhok during the session. As a result Hülkenberg was promoted to the front row. Perera, who failed to qualify within 107 per cent of the pole position time, did not participate in either race.

Race one: Parente translates pole into win

Parente held off Hulkenberg and di Grassi to put his name to the 100th GP2 Series victory in race one – as well as the first for the Ocean Racing team.

But the event got off to a bad start after the car of Trident’s Ricardo Teixeira tugged a cable attached to an air gun which flew into the air and hit a mechanic, causing him to be hospitalised with serious head injuries.

After a delayed start, Perez stalled on the grid, kicking off an incident-packed race that nevertheless allowed Parente to beat Hulkenberg off the line then build a steady lead to dominate more or less from lights to flag despite two safety car periods

With two laps remaining, Coletti hit a barrier from ninth place, in an accident that left him taking a trip to hospital, but thankfully without serious injuries.

Following the second safety car period, Hulkenberg finished second and di Grassi placed third with the retirement of title challenger Petrov aiding the German’s championship campaign.

Fourth was Maldonado, fifth Rodriguez, sixth iSport’s Giedo van der Garde, seventh DAMS’ Kazui Kobayashi and eighth Arden’s Eduardo Mortara.

Post-race penalties

Three drivers were issued with penalties following the feature race. Nunes had 25 seconds added to his race time for cutting the Bus Stop chicane, leaving him in ninth place on the grid behind Mortara.

Racing Engineering’s Dani Clos and Durango’s Nelson Panciatici received similar penalties after being found to have set their fastest laps under yellow flags. However this did not affect their respective 10th and 11th places on the grid.

Race two: van der Garde avoids trouble to take win

Van der Garde collected his second win of the season in the sprint race after beating pole-sitter Mortara off the line then building a steady lead ahead of second-placed man Rodriguez and Nunes in third.

Despite the chaotic feature race and its attendant penalties the field was equally enthusiastic in the sprint, leading to no less than eight failures or retirements. Filippi failed to make the start thanks to a clutch problem, then Racing Engineering’s Clos kicked off the festivities by taking out Hulkenberg and d’Ambrosio.

Maldonado crashed at Les Combes while attempting to take Mortara on lap two, a coming-together that also damaged Kobayashi. Maldonado was stranded out on the circuit leading to a yellow flag and the safety car.

Mortara kept running after his lap two incident only to be taken out by a di Grassi passing manoeuvre up the road, who ended the race for both of them. Finally Parente’s engine blew.

Behind the top three were Perez, Trident’s Rigon and Barwa Addax title contender Petrov occupying the remaining points-paying positions.

Post-race penalties

Following the sprint race the stewards handed di Grassi and Clos 10-place grid penalty for the Monza weekend following their incidents with Hulkenberg and Mortara.

Standings (points-scorers only listed):

  1. Nicolas Hülkenberg, ART: 83 points
  2. Vitaly Petrov, Barwa Addax: 56 points
  3. Lucas Di Grassi, Racing Engineering: 46 points
  4. Romain Grosjean, Barwa Addax: 45 points
  5. Pastor Maldonado, ART: 36 points
  6. Alvaro Parente, Ocean: 27 points
  7. Luca Filippi, Super Nova: 24 points
  8. Giedo van der Garde, iSport: 22 points
  9. Sergio Pérez, Arden: 22 points
  10. Roldan Rodriguez, Piquet: 21 points
  11. Jérôme d’Ambrosio, DAMS: 21 points
  12. Andreas Zuber, FMS: 20 points
  13. Javier Villa, Super Nova: 20 points
  14. Alberto Valerio, Piquet: 16 points
  15. Edoardo Mortara, Arden: 14 points
  16. Kamui Kobayashi, DAMS: 10 points
  17. Davide Valsecchi, Durango/Barwa Addax: 10 points
  18. Karun Chandhok, Ocean: 10 points
  19. Diego Nunes, iSport: 6 points
  20. Davide Rigon, Trident: 3 points

For a full set of stats and standings, visit the series website here >>

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