GP2: Hulkenberg’s win boosts F1 hopes

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, July 26th, 2009

 
 

F1 hopeful Nico Hulkenberg has improved his chances of a drive with Williams next season after taking a win in Hungary and extending his lead at the top of the championship standings.

The ART driver won his third race in a row from fifth on the grid in the weekend’s race one, an outing decided largely by pitstop strategy. With 10 points in hand he picked up a further point for fastest lap, thus raising his overall points total to 57 with four more events to go.

In race two iSport’s Giedo van der Garde took his maiden series victory after a great start past the polesitter to lead for the entire race.

Here’s how the weekend progressed:

Practice: di Grassi puts in fastest lap

Racing Engineering’s Lucas di Grassi produced the quickest lap of the practice session with a time of 1:28.261, four-tenths clear of his nearest rivals Barwa Addax’ Vitaly Petrov and Super Nova’s Javier Villa. With the track temperature rising to 41°C, Villa was initially the fastest – until di Grassi set the pace just before the ten minute mark.

ART’s Pastor Maldonado went on to set the fastest sectors 1 and 2 before losing the rear of his car in turn 13, prompting a yellow flag that left just 20 clear minutes. Attempts by the whole field to claim the top spot from di Grassi were, however, unsuccessful and led to several on-track incidents.

In eventual fourth was Barwa Addax’ Romain Grosjean, followed by Ocean’s Alvaro Parente, Maldonado, Durango’s Davide Valsecchi, Super Nova’s Luca Filippi and Arden’s Edoardo Mortara. Series leader Nico Hülkenberg, who drives for ART, completed the Top 10.

Qualifying: di Grassi takes first pole

Di Grassi claimed his first pole position with a mature drive in testing conditions ahead of Petrov and Villa, having held the lead for most of the session then emerging after a red-flag period to claim the top spot. His lap time of 1:27.867 was less than a tenth of a second faster than Petrov’s, whose period at the top of the timesheets lasted for less than a minute.

With clear laps a rarity, di Grassi was immediately on the pace, with Petrov looking to strike back. However Grosjean clipped DPR’s Franck Perera, ending the session for both and prompting a red flag after seven minutes.

On the restart Villa claimed the fastest first sector, Petrov the fastest second sector (and, briefly, the best overall time) but di Grassi claimed the fastest time in the tricky third sector, settling him up for the best combined lap. And it was enough.

The trio came home ahead of Valsecchi, Hülkenberg, Filippi, Maldonado, FMI’s Andreas Zuber, Trident’s Davide Rigon and Piquet’s Roldan Rodriguez, all within a second of pole.

Post-qualifying penalty

Following the incident in qualifying which saw Perera and Grosjean collide early in the session, resulting in both cars spinning off track, the stewards judged that Perera had impeded his countryman.

As Perera’s qualifying time exceeded 107 per cent of the time set by polesitter di Grassi, the stewards decided that he would not participate in Race 1. He was, however, allowed to take part in Race 2 on Sunday, starting from last on the grid.

Grosjean, whose best time also exceeded the 107 per cent limit, was given permission to start race one.

Race one: Hulkenberg’s winning streak continues

Nico Hülkenberg repeated his dominant performance from the Nurburgring to claim his third win in a row ahead of Lucas di Grassi and Javier Villa, securing his championship lead in the process.

The Williams F1 hopeful had a strong start, moving up two places to third behind polesitter di Grassi and then Villa, with front-row starter Vitaly Petrov making a slow getaway. Rigon, by contrast, moved from ninth to fourth.

On a circuit which is poor for overtaking, pitstop strategies were crucial, with Villa the first to make a stop on lap 10. That compelled Hulkenberg to stop on the next lap and he emerged ahead with di Grassi coming in one lap later ahead of his rivals.

However Hülkenberg managed an unlikely move on di Grassi at turn two and gained the effective lead of the race. As the drivers ahead of them pulled into the pits Hulkenberg gained on his rivals until his lead was assured. He eventually came home 15 seconds clear of di Grassi, himself a second clear of Villa.

Maldonado held on for fourth, Valsecchi was rewarded with fifth after running around the outside of Luca Filippi late in the race, leaving iSport’s Giedo van der Garde in seventh and Rigon claiming Trident’s first point of the season in eighth. Title rivals Romain Grosjean and Vitaly Petrov both finished out of the points.

Race two

Giedo van der Garde soaked up race long pressure from Luca Filippi to claim his first win of the season, turning around iSport’s disappointing season to hold on for the victory by half a second from his nearest rivals

The Dutchman stormed off the line to pass polesitter Rigon, who made a slow getaway, with Filippi slotting in behind him into turn one. An incident with Maldonado at turn nine finished his race and left the Venezuelan at the back of the field.

Javier Villa avoided the accident to slot into third with Filippi’s tactics based on the hope that the rookie race leader would destroy his tyres and hand him an opportunity. But van der Garde hung on to his lead through a safety car period to take a maiden victory by the briefest of margins.

Di Grassi and Grosjean finished just one second later after moving past Villa when he ran wide late in the race. The disappointed Spaniard had to make do with fifth place ahead of Parente, who soaked up enormous pressure from Hülkenberg for the final points-paying position.

Standings (points-scorers only listed):

  1. Nicolas Hülkenberg, ART: 57 points
  2. Romain Grosjean, Barwa Addax: 45 points
  3. Vitaly Petrov, Barwa Addax: 41 points
  4. Lucas Di Grassi, Racing Engineering: 40 points
  5. Pastor Maldonado, ART: 31 points
  6. Luca Filippi, Super Nova: 22 points
  7. Andreas Zuber, FMS: 20 points
  8. Javier Villa, Super Nova: 20 points
  9. Jérôme d’Ambrosio, DAMS: 18 points
  10. Alberto Valerio, Piquet: 16 points
  11. Giedo van der Garde, iSport: 13 points
  12. Edoardo Mortara, Arden: 10 points
  13. Davide Valsecchi, Durango: 10 points
  14. Alvaro Parente, Ocean: 9 points
  15. Karun Chandhok, Ocean: 9 points
  16. Roldan Rodriguez, Piquet: 8 points
  17. Kamui Kobayashi, DAMS: 7 points
  18. Sergio Pérez, Arden: 7 points
  19. Davide Rigon, Trident: 1 point

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

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