The Indian national anthem is not often heard at motorsport events but Karun Chandhok made sure it was played today, as he took the GP2 Series sprint race win at Hockenheim. Karun Chandhok celebrates his victory on the podium. Photo by...
The Indian national anthem is not often heard at motorsport events but Karun Chandhok made sure it was played today, as he took the GP2 Series sprint race win at Hockenheim.
Chandhok, who had finished in 8th position in Sturday's feature race started from pole position with the inverted grid for the Sprint race. The young driver added this victory to his growing tally of good results, including another win at Spa last year, a fantastic achievement for Chandhok.
"This time is a little different to Spa last year," he said. "At Spa I was just really, really pleased but this time there is a little relief as well because this year I came into it believing we were fast enough, knowing we were fast enough to win races but it didn't happen in (GP2) Asia."
"We've had pace all season long at places like Silverstone and Istanbul, and in Monaco we had good race pace," Chandhok added. "It's just nice to get one under the belt as an indication that we can complete the job as well."
The conditions at the start were good with the sun poking through light clouds. None of the black clouds that caused so much carnage in the last five laps of the feature race the previous day were to be seen.
Despite the clear conditions the start was far from uneventful. Chandhok bogged down with a touch of wheelspin and battled to stay ahead of second-placed Andy Soucek. This allowed Lucas di Grassi jump from fourth to first as he took the outside route around first turn.
Behind it was thrills and spills as soon as the lights went green. Luca Filippi tried to jump through after a good start but there wasn't room and he had a coming together with Michael Herck before the pair had a chance to clear the pit straight.
Romain Grosjean was so nearly another casualty as he was pushed very wide by the pack getting to within inches of touching the wall. Giorgio Pantano and Andi Zuber, who made a great start from eleventh on the grid were close behind as they finished the first lap through he yellow flags being waved down the straight.
Chandhok's early hiccup was soon to be rectified as he piled the pressure onto the leader. di Grassi was fighting hard to keep ahead but the car was sliding about and within three laps Chandhok got past on the straight as the cars headed to the Mercedes complex.
Championship leader Pantano was not hanging about either and had made short work of Alvaro Parente, Grosjean and Bruno Senna off the line, adding Pastor Maldonado to the list shortly afterwards. Soucek was destined to become Pantano's next victim but the gap that Pantano had found unexpectedly became smaller than the dimensions of a GP2 car. With 21 laps left to go the inevitable accident resulted in Pantano with broken steering while Soucek limped back to the pits.
Chandhok, meanwhile, remained comfortable at the front and stayed there until the chequered flag.
A struggling di Grassi fell away and into sights of the charging Zuber. Positions were swapped twice before Zuber got away in front and second place was his to keep.
Today was just great, I had a really mega start and after just one lap I was sixth already," Zuber recounted. "I overtook four or five cars at the start and then on the first corner I was a bit wide because one guy pushed me out so I lost even two places there but I made it back, I overtook my teammate, di Grassi, and then I went when Pantano and Soucek were a little bit fighting and overtook them on the outside when they touched"
"I was pushing Chandhok quite hard but then my rear tyres lost a little bit of grip," he continued. "I saw Bruno flying from behind and so I said okay, I'll wait for a mistake from Chandhok but it didn't happen - he drove a really good race today - and when you come from eleventh to second you don't want to risk too much!"
With Pantano out, Senna had the opportunity to get back into the title fight after the disastrous result in the first of the German races. He seized the chance and started his move up the field by taking Parente at the hairpin; the charge would eventually take him to the podium and third place.
Maldonado appeared to have fallen asleep at the wheel as he approached the hairpin with 20 laps to go following di Grassi. Maldonado didn't just miss the braking point, he seemed not brake at all and slammed hard into the back of di Grassi's car. The unfortunate Italian was but a passenger on a ride that would take him to the grass verge and no points. He would fail to finish the race, a first for him this season.
Maldonado, on the other hand, limped back to the pits for a new nosecone but the stewards would hand him a 10-position grid penalty for the next race in Budapest for the incident. Kamui Kobayashi was also handed a 25-second penalty after it was decided that he, too, caused an avoidable collision with Diego Nunes. The Dams driver also lost his bonus point for fastest lap time handing it to Sebastien Buemi. Grosjean and Javier Villa would finish 4th and fifth respectively with Parente in 6th.
Senna's podium finish reduced the championship points deficit to leader Pantano to just 15. While not a perfect result, it is somewhat better than it could have been for the Brazilian as the GP2 series heads to Hungary for the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of August.