Luca Filippi and Giacomo Ricci won the final two races of the GP2 Asia season to tie on points for the runner-up spot in the championship, with Filippi taking the honours on count-back.
Oliver Turvey’s hopes of handing his iSport team a 1-2 championship finish after team-mate Davide Valsecchi had won the title at the previous meeting died with ninth and 11th placed finishes that dropped him to sixth in the standings.
By contrast Sam Bird, who failed to score in the first five of the season’s eight races, moved up to just behind Turvey by finishing with a sixth and a second place – his first GP2 podium.
Here’s how the weekend unfolded:
Free practice: iSport duo fastest
Norfolk-based iSport duo Turvey and Valsecchi were fastest as the British driver topped the timesheets in a trouble-free session, producing a fastest lap of 2:08.459. His team-mate was just one-tenth of a second behind and GP2 Asia returnee Luiz Razia scored the third-fastest time for his Rapax team.
The iSport cars saw out the early minutes of the session in the pitlane before joining an intense battle on track. Turvey claimed top spot after three laps, recovering from almost losing his car in the second sector in his flying lap, only to be bested by Razia by 0.6 seconds.
After the pitstops Turvey reclaimed top spot and, with both iSport cars quickest, ART’s Bird was classified eighth with a time of 2:09.397 while Addax’ Max Chilton came 17th with a time of 2:10.481. Scuderia Coloni’s Will Bratt was the slowest of the British drivers in 20th on 2:10.900.
Qualifying: Filippi claims pole
Meritus’ Filippi grabbed pole position with a fastest lap of 2:07.087 after stealing the thunder of Arden’s Charles Pic in the last minutes.
The pair dominated the sesson along with Turvey and Valsecchi, fresh from their fastest times in practice, Coloni’s Alvaro Parente and Arden’s Javier Villa – but none of them could find the perfect lap that would better Filippi’s time.
Pic hung on in defence of his potential second pole of the season, but Filippi improved a couple of minutes before the chequered flag to go faster. The Frenchman, iSport’s duo and Parente pushed hard in their last flying lap, but could not dislodge him.
With Turvey starting third on a time of 2:07.237, Bird – carrying BritsOnPole.com’s colours on his car – was 11th on 2:08.339, Chilton 16th on 2:08.692 and Bratt 21st on 2:09.611.
Race one: Filippi holds off pressure to take win
Filippi served up his Meritus team’s first series victory in a strong performance during which he held off race-long pressure from already-crowned champion Valsecchi.
Starting from pole position, he made a strong get-away and kept the lead as Pic made a slow start, allowing Valsecchi to beat him into turn one. The pair pitted on the same lap and Filippi emerged ahead of Valsecchi who was unable to close the gap between them.
Pic tried to recover from his poor start with an early pitstop and passed the exit of the pitlane as Valsecchi came back out. The two men ran alongside in Turn 1 but the iSport driver fended off Pic’s attacks to keep the advantage.
A late safety car caused by a collision left the top three of Filippi, Pic and Valsecchi unchanged. Behind them, Parente was in fourth with Villa, Jules Bianchi and Ricci fighting for fifth place. The first two banged wheels at the restart and Ricci passed them.
While Bianchi dropped to tenth making further contact with Alexander Rossi, his teammate Bird moved up to sixth, passing Villa in the process. Turvey was ninth, Bratt 15th and Chilton 19th.
Race two: Bird on podium as Filippi secures series runner-up spot
Ricci turned a fourth-place grid slot into a lead before the first corner of the sprint race then pulled away from his rivals to build a 5.3-second advantage that was never challenged.
The podium was decided in the first corner as Bird and Parente grabbed second and third. The trio did not change for the remainder of the 20-lap race on a circuit that was widely tipped to be processional following the addition of a narrow section in the second sector since the last GP2 Asia meeting was held here.
Behind them Valsecchi emerged from seventh to fourth place ahead Rossi, Filippi, Pic and Villa. The competition was fierce in the early stages of the race as they fought for places in the final teams’ standings.
Eventually, Pic passed both Villa and Filippi in a bold move into turn two, but he had to pit on lap nine following a puncture and dropped out of the points. Rossi and Valsecchi duelled through the race for fourth place with Valsecchi emerging victorious. Villa finished sixth to put Arden second in the series standings.
Bird, taking his first GP2 podium, also grabbed the bonus point for the fastest lap ahead of Ricci. This meant Filippi took the runner-up spot in the standings while Ricci came third. In the race Turvey was 11th, Chilton 15th and Bratt 16th.