iSport’s Davide Valsecchi was expected to dominate this weekend’s GP2 Asia event in Abu Dhabi after his near-shutout in November – and he delivered the goods in the sprint race.
Despite coming second to his British team-mate Oliver Turvey in the feature race a day earlier, the Italian consolidated his championship lead after coming from seventh on the grid, unseating leader Michael Herck on the second-from-last lap.
After the weekend Valsecchi is the runaway leader in the drivers’ standings with 35 points and Turvey is second with 16. In the teams’ championship Norfolk-based iSport is on 51 points, streets ahead of nearest rival DPR on 15.
Herck took the lead at the start of the sprint race after pole-sitter Max Chilton had an terrible getaway allowing the DPR driver a clear run into the first corner.
Chilton salvaged enough to stay running among the leaders, while behind them Super Nova’s Joseph Kral was caught up in an incident involving Barwa Addax’ Sergio Perez and Meritus’ Luca Filippi, ending Kral’s race and triggering a safety car. ART driver Sam Bird also exited without completing a lap.
Ricci took advantage of the restart to pass Rossi and awaken hopes of a first-ever 1-2 for DPR, while Perez passed Turvey, who had started eighth on the reversed grid, for P6.
Chilton had stabilised in fifth place while ART’s Jules Bianchi was trying to make amends stalling on the grid by working his way up through the field with a series of daring overtaking manoeuvres. However Perez and Valsecchi were both working hard to take control of the race, with the latter setting a series of fastest laps in pursuit of Herck and Ricci at the front.
He took Ricci on lap 14 and Herck on lap 19, securing the top spot on the podium for himself by a clear two seconds – but DPR was still celebrating its double-podium finishing after its pair finished second and third.
Perez held on to finish fourth ahead of Turvey with Chilton picking up a final point for sixth place.
Valsecchi describes his race
Speaking in the post-race press conference, Valsecchi lamented his bad start but pointed out he had gained several places by the end of the second lap: “After that, I thought I am here close to the top, so if I can take care of the tyres maybe I can fight at the end for the victory.
“It was not so easy because the yellow cars there were really fast and competitive and so, at the beginning, to keep their pace was not so easy. Ricci was a good defender and so I had to fight a lot with him and I lost some time from Herck.
“I said maybe again today I finish second – my team told me ‘you have gained two tenths’ and I said hey two tenths, I am three seconds behind!
“It was not enough, but then I saw I was gaining, gaining, gaining, gaining and you start to believe in it, and start to be confident, and you start to be really patient and at the end I got it with one lap left.”
Turvey hails feature race breakthrough
Following Friday’s feature race, Turvey spoke of his delight at his maiden series win, telling journalists at the press conference how he had worked hard to improve his November performance: “I got a fantastic start. I had put a lot of effort into finding out as much information about the start because last time here in November we had two not so good starts.
“So I worked hard with the team to make sure I understood everything about the start. I got a fantastic getaway and was quite clear into turn one and from there on I was able to have a fairly comfortable first few laps and try to make a bit of a break.
“From there I was trying to control the pace, control the tyres, look after the tyres, make sure we didn’t work them too hard and you know just make sure no one got too close. Yes it was a fantastic race, the pit stop went well and the team did a good job there. We were able to lead the whole way.”
He said that he had feared a late safety car period could have cost him the race, closing the gap from his car to that of team-mate Valsecchi after he had already wrested back his lead following the pitstops.
Speaking of contact between the team-mates that happened at that point, he said: “I held the inside line into the top chicane and Davide had a good slipstream, he got on the outside of me but then in the braking zone he came across, I had nowhere to go.
“We just touched a little bit but I am sure it wasn’t a problem. From then on we were able to have a very good race and it was fantastic for the team.
“iSport have done a fantastic job and the car has been really strong all weekend. Throughout the race I had no problems and I felt really confident with the car and so thanks to them.”
Sprint race results
- Davide Valsecchi, iSport
- Michael Herck, DPR
- Giacomo Ricci, DPR
- Sergio Perez, Addax
- Oliver Turvey, iSport
- Max Chilton, Ocean
- Jules Bianchi, ART
- Charles Pic, Arden
- Alexander Rossi, Meritus
- Vladimir Arabadzhiev, Rapax
- Javier Villa, Arden
- Marcus Ericsson, Super Nova
- Dani Clos, Trident
- Christian Vietoris, DAMS
- Daniel Zampieri, Rapax
- Edoardo Piscopo, DAMS
- Luca Filippi, Meritus
- Alberto Valerio, Coloni
- Giedo van der Garde, Addax
- Plamen Kralev, Trident
Did not finish
- Will Bratt, Coloni, 18 laps
- Fabio Leimer, Ocean, 16 laps
- Josef Kral, Super Nova, 0 laps
- Sam Bird, ART, 0 laps