Jackson: "A good solid start to the season."
The GP2 Asia series kicked off at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi today at 5pm local time. After a hot day, the track was warm at 5pm local time as the cars inched out of the garages for the formation lap. With iSport the defending GP2 Asia champions, drivers Marcus Ericsson and Sam Bird had a tough job having had a difficult day in qualifying yesterday.
Early drama saw Daniel Clos stall on the grid in P4 immediately ahead of Ericsson, with the Swede taking evasive action to avoid the Racing Engineering man. Varhaug in the DAMS car was not so lucky, colliding heavily with the stationary car, which led to an immediate Red flag and a long delay whilst the track was cleared up. Thankfully both drivers involved were unhurt.
Early on, Sam Bird was in excellent form, making light work of Guttierez and then Berthon to rise into eighth. After passing Chilton to win the battle of the Brits, Bird began to reel in Kral, who was ultimately to prove one challenge too many. "Sam made good progress until he caught Kral and used up his tyres fighting with him", said Paul Jackon, team principal. "I think he would have been right with Marcus if he had not been held up". The benefit of course is that Sam Bird will now start from the front row of tomorrow's grid, when the top eight reverse their positions.
Meanwhile Ericsson was having an easy drive in fifth, not coming under any danger from Kral behind him, and seemingly not making ground on Van Der Garde ahead. With about ten minutes to go, Ericsson began making up significant time as Van Der Garde was held up by Valsecchi in front, but it still didn't look likely that he could close the gap of over four seconds in time. Marcus obviously thought he could though, and some searing laps saw a nail-biting finish, with the three drivers very close together for the final podium position.
On the final lap, Ericsson got through Van Der Garde, although could not then catch Valsecchi in time. With results of P4 and P7, iSport were the only team to see both drivers in the points and with seven points from the first race, the team lie third place in the driver's standings.
With drivers on the first and second row of the grid for Saturday's sprint race, it's a great start.