Weather heats up in Valencia but that did not slow down James Calado as he earned his second GP2 Series pole this season. The Lotus GP Briton set the fastest time over his rivals with a 1:47.342 on the Valencia Street Circuit in Spain.
"I did 2 laps that I think were good enough for pole position, and I was reasonably happy with how everything went, but I have to say on my fastest lap I hit a kerb, and went up a gear by accident! So I had to go back down again, and I lost a couple of tenths there, but it was nice to be at the front straight away, like in Barcelona, and it's only the second track I've known, just like Barcelona. It helps when you've got track knowledge, especially when tyre degradation is so high," said Calado.
Missing the coveted pole by seven-thousandths of a second was Felipe Nasr. The DAMS rookie clocked a 1:47.349 to land on the front row. Not far behind was Lotus GP’s Esteban Gutierrez with a 1:47.444, who was followed closely by the pole winner’s DAMS teammate, Davide Valsecchi with a 1:47.458.
As it turned out, most of the drivers elected to take to the circuit on the soft Pirelli tyres, but as luck would have it a red flag was shown early when Giancarlo Serenelli on his first flying lap and ended up in the middle of the track. The Venezuela GP Lazarus driver ended his qualifying attempt without setting a time and will slot on the bottom of race one’s grid tomorrow.
The battle for the pole commenced and it did not take long for the top runners to realize that their tyres were good to go and the hot lap times were being pursued by the field. First to take the provisional pole slot was Valsecchi; but his rivals were pushing hard to best his early lap time. Within minutes, Gutierrez laid down a flyer before Nasr laid down an even faster lap. And then Calado showed his speed.
The rest of the field followed by the top four decided to put on fresh rubber and give it a go, and that was when Calado pushed it to the limit to grab the pole. While others tried to overtake the Lotus GP driver’s flying lap, they came up short. Taking no chance, Calado pushed too hard and spun and barely kept his car from hitting the surrounding walls. His day had ended before the checkered flag and all he could was await the outcome from pitlane.
Besides Gutierrez, Nasr and Valsecchi a, Max Chilton was on the move, as were Giedo van der Garde, Fabio Leimer, Jolyon Palmer, Marcus Ericsson and Rio Haryanto. The separation between the top time and Haryanto was just tenths of a second.
In the end, the show today belonged to the Lotus GP and DAMS team as they sealed the two front rows. Van der Garde gave it his best but he will start fifth for Caterham Racing with a lap time of 1:47.543. Alongside on the third row will be Carlin’s Chilton with a 1:47.674.
Rounding out the top 10 were Leimer (Racing Engineering), Palmer (iSport), Ericsson (iSport), and Haryanto (Carlin).
This year, the tight contest between the GP2 drivers has been one not to miss. No doubt the Spanish fans will enjoy every minute of the Feature race on Saturday. The outcome of the top eight will be inverted for the Sprint race grid on Sunday.
Added to the drama for Saturday’s was the typical GP2 Series post qualifying penalties for impeding other competitors, and this time it includes both drivers on the second row! Gutierrez will start the race from fifth instead if third, and Valsecchi slots to sixth.
Johnny Cecotto was also handed a penalty that will drop him three places on the grid. Simon Trummer was only handed a penalty of two slots on the grid.