The Barwa Addax team has maintained its GP2 championship one-two through a turbulent weekend at Silverstone despite failing to score a podium in either race.
Pastor Maldonado is snapping at their heels after a sprint race win and a top-eight feature finish left the ART driver just seven points shy of second-placed Vitaly Petrov, himself seven points behind championship leader Romain Grosjean.
Maldonado is tied on points with his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg in an incredibly tight top-of-the-table battle following the British Grand Prix weekend. Racing Engineering’s Lucas di Grassi is two points behind them.
In Friday practice Grosjean topped the timesheets, claiming the position by two-tenths of a second from FMS’ Andreas Zuber and Ocean’s Karun Chandhok with a time of 1:26.808.
Behind the top three were di Grassi, Chandhok’s team-mate Alvaro Parente, Maldonado, Super Nova’s Javier Villa and Petrov, all of whom had one eye on the weather and the other on their rivals in the afternoon qualifying session.
Qualifying: Grosjean continues good form
Grosjean continued his positive-looking weekend into qualifying where he claimed his third pole of the season in blustery conditions, finding his way through the traffic to take the top spot ahead of Piquet’s Alberto Valerio and Parente.
He set a best time of 1:25.899 on a clear lap after exiting the pits with fresh tyres ahead of the rest of the field, cutting two tenths off Valerio’s time to claim pole while his rivals tripped over each other trying to beat him.
The Brazilian set the early pace until Grosjean produced sector bests to slot in ahead. But, with much of the field coming in to the pits halfway through the session, a, clear lap for Valerio looked to have won him pole.
In the event, he had to make do with the second front-row grid slot next to Grosjean on pole while Parente made up the numbers in third. DAMS’ JÃ©rÃ´me d’Ambrosio, di Grassi, Petrov and HÃ¼lkenberg all missed out on clear laps, ending up filling the fourth through seventh positions. Villa, Maldonado and DAMS’ Kazui Kobayashi filled out the top 10.
Penalties from qualifying
Following the qualifying session Durango’s Davide Valsecchi and iSport’s Diego Nunes were penalised five grid positions after the stewards judged them to have blocked their competitors. Nunes took to the grid in 16th position, while Valsecchi started from 20th.
The stewards also announced that Roldan Rodriguez, Sergio Perez and Ricardo Teixeira, who all failed to complete a lap in qualifying, would be allowed to start from the rear of the grid after setting times in free practice which were within 107 per cent of Grosjean’s pole lap.
Race one: mature drive leads Valerio to maiden win
Valerio drove from the front row to claim his first GP2 victory, first overtaking for the lead then maintaining a strong but sensible pace to protect his advantage and his tyres.
Initially Grosjean led from pole with only d’Ambrosio failing to make it off the grid. But a string of fast laps saw the Brazilian all over the rear wing of the race leader, while behind them Parente tapped Petrov wide at the first corner to give di Grassi, Villa and HÃ¼lkenberg a chance to slot in behind the front pair.
Valerio took Grosjean for the lead at Abbey on lap eight and, uncorked, was soon off into the distance as the former polesitter was forced to fend off a challenge from di Grrassi. Two laps later Grosjean lost another spot when he ran wide at Stowe.
HÃ¼lkenberg, stuck behind Grosjean, opted to pit and Valerio was the only man to beat him out. There were battles up and down the field after the stops with Valerio comfortable at the front and HÃ¼lkenberg dropping back to the pack as a consequence of his early stop and now-worn tyres.
Di Grassi finally got past him at Abbey, with HÃ¼lkenberg just holding on to claim the final podium spot ahead of Perez, who moved up from 25th on the grid to fourth place.
Grosjean was fourth, Chandhok fifth, while Pastor Maldonado slipped inside Zuber on the final lap for the better of the final two-points paying spots.
Race two: Maldonado leads from lights to flag
Maldonado took his second victory of the season in the sprint race , leading from lights to flag despite race-long pressure and a late safety car period. He claimed the win ahead of Zuber and Chandhok.
The Venezuelan made a superb getaway, slipping through into Stowe before and going on to build a strong lead that was never in doubt after the first few laps.
Di Grassi stalled from third on the grid, leaving the rest of the field to find a way past him and handing an immediate boost to the front-row pairing of Chandhok and Grosjean. HÃ¼lkenberg and Perez, were also able to make a relatively clean getaway.
With three laps to go Racing Engineering’s Dani Clos lost the rear of his car following on from an earlier accident, spun and stalled in the middle of a corner, prompting a safety car period which lasted until the final turn of the race and securing Maldonado’s victory.
He held on for the win with points going to Zuber, Chandhok (claiming Ocean Racing’s first podium), Grosjean, HÃ¼lkenberg and Perez.
Standings (points-scorers only listed):
- Romain Grosjean, Barwa Addax: 40 points
- Vitaly Petrov, Barwa Addax: 33 points
- Pastor Maldonado, ART: 26 points
- Nicolas HÃ¼lkenberg, ART: 26 points
- Lucas Di Grassi, Racing Engineering: 24 points
- JÃ©rÃ´me d’Ambrosio, DAMS: 18 points
- Alberto Valerio, Piquet: 16 points
- Andreas Zuber, FMS: 14 points
- Luca Filippi, Super Nova: 13 points
- Edoardo Mortara, Arden: 11 points
- Karun Chandhok, Ocean: 9 points
- Javier Villa, Super Nova: 7 points
- Davide Valsecchi, Durango: 6 points
- Sergio PÃ©rez, Arden: 6 points
- Giedo van der Garde, iSport: 5 points
- Kamui Kobayashi, DAMS: 3 points