GP2: Silverstone preview and qualifying report

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSaturday, July 5th, 2008

 
 

Amidst all the fuss over Lewis Hamilton’s home grand prix, David Coulthard’s retirement announcement and the future of the Silverstone circuit, it’s easy to forget that round five of the GP2 series will also be taking place.

But things look a bit different from the perspective of the GP2 paddock – especially after Bruno Senna claimed his second pole in a row at Silverstone, taking the top spot in qualifying ahead of Romain Grosjean and Andreas Zuber.

Senna takes sprint pole

Senna topped the timesheets with a lap of 1:26.912, a tenth of a second ahead of Grosjean, who is on the front row for the second race running.

All the teams got straight out on the track immediately the practice session opened and almost all set a fastest lap on their first set of tyres. This was repeated in qualifying, when a fierce early fight between Roldan Rodriguez, Adrian Valles and Mike Conway set the standard for the day.

All took a turn at the top of the timesheets before Grosjean overtook teammate Luca Filippi just before the pit stops.

Senna had other plans however, and stayed out to take advantage of the clear track. His move paid off and he claimed pole position before returning to the pits along with countryman Lucas di Grassi.

Despite a strong push in the second half of the session only Zuber and Giorgio Pantano could improve their times.

Behind the top three in the sprint race will be di Grassi, Pantano, Filippi, Andy Soucek and Mike Conway, although there was little to separate them: the top twelve drivers were covered by just one second, with a further second covering the first 22 drivers.

But with changeable weather predicted for race day the race could, in truth, be anyone’s.

Grosjean tops practice timesheets

In practice Romain Grosjean set the pace in free practice, topping the timesheets ahead of British driver and F1 hopeful Mike Conway, his and ART teammate Luca Filippi.

Grosjean’s best time of 1:27.411, set just before he pitted for fresh tyres, was three-tenths faster than his closest rivals – and then the track cooled, putting him beyond the reach of his rivals.

With tyre changes in the middle of the session, the drivers were expected to keep improving, but a break in the weather and an oil spill from Fernando Alonso’s F1 car paid to any further improvement.

Filippi, Senna and Parente followed F1’s Massa off the track – albeit with an awful lot less drama – as they pushed hard at the compromised fast corner.

Behind the top three Giorgio Pantano, Kamui Kobayashi, Andreas Zuber, Soucek, Parente, Lucas di Grassi and Senna will be hoping to wring more from their cars in this afternoon’s qualifying session.

Season standings

So how do things stand with the championship?

Two weeks ago, in Magny-Cours, Giorgio Pantano snatched a second win that allowed him to retake the lead in a tight race and put himself decisively ahead of Brazilian Bruno Senna.

Senna, who started on pole in the French feature race, salvaged a few points in France and was able to stay second in the drivers’ standings.

He remains a serious title candidate and, snapping at the heels of the leaders, are Sébastien Buemi, Romain Grosjean and Alvaro Parente.

In team terms iSport International lead with 41 points, Racing Engineering are just behind them with 38 points and Piquet Sports are on 35 points going into the Silverstone weekend.

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