By David C. Schilke
Stefano Coletti piloted the Trident Racing entry to the team’s first GP2 win in three years. The driver from Monaco started fourth on the gird but jumped to second place off the start line for the weekend’s sprint race at Istanbul. Five laps later Coletti went side by side with Dani Clos for the lead. Once past the Racing Engineering driver Coletti took control of the race and after a late restart, he crossed the line ahead of second placed Giedo van der Garde with Sam Bird taking the final podium.
“It's amazing, especially in the first weekend, you know?” exclaimed Coletti. “I already won the one in Asia, but to win one in the main series in the first weekend is great! Especially after the start we had after qualifying: we knew we had the pace, we just had a lot of bad luck with yellows and red flags. From P14 to P5 was already amazing, so to go to P1 today is just a perfect weekend.”
I already won the one in Asia, but to win one in the main series in the first weekend is great!
Van Der Garde kept pace with Coletti for much of the race but was unable to match the Trident Racing entry on the last lap dash after a safety car period was brought out by Julian Leal hitting Davide Rigon. The pair tangled with four laps to go, making the only interruption to the sprint race. Unfortunately Rigon suffered multiple fractures to his leg, and will undergo emergency surgery tomorrow. Leal would be penalized for causing the crash; he’ll face a ten spot drop on the gird at Catalunya.
“We are quite shocked because Davide is very popular with everyone in the team,” said Scuderia Coloni Team Principal, Paolo Coloni, “and he is a very experienced driver. He had the Ferrari doctor with him immediately, and the damage is quite serious.
“He is already booked in for surgery tomorrow morning, and we are all concentrating on that and hoping for good success. All of our thoughts are with Davide, and hopefully we will get some good news soon.”
The best show in the race was put on by Bird in his fight to get onto the podium. The Brit dodged the chaos of Romain Grosjean and Jules Bianchi getting together and slotted into sixth. He then attacked Luiz Razia for fifth and happily dispatched a slowing Clos for fourth. The iSport driver then set his sights on Charles Pic and chased after the Addax entry right to the safety car period. On the restart Bird had only on lap to get on the podium but almost retired when Marcus Ericsson hit him. The Brit recovered and made his move past Pic when braking into turn 10. Bird then sailed away on the backstraight to take his second podium of the weekend and tie Grosjean for the early points lead, Grosjean was able to earn one point for fastest lap today.
“I couldn't go as quick as I wanted to, and I think if I'd had clean air I could have really gone for it and gone really quickly today, because the car felt good,” said Bird. “But it was just a case of looking after my tyres a little more, and kind of forcing the other guys into a couple of mistakes: I was trying to push them into mistakes but not push myself, if that makes any sense. It was quite difficult, they put up quite a fight, but we got there in the end: a little scare on the last lap [laughs] but we were able to get through that and get a podium.”
Pic had to settle for fourth today with Malaysia’s Fairuz Fauzy fifth and Josef Kral rounding out the top six. Yesterday’s winner, Grosjean, could do no better than tenth while his rival Bianchi crossed the line seventh.
Grosjean and Bird have established themselves to be the drivers to watch this season. For Grosjean leading the GP2 series is nothing new and his ultimate goal is to prove he belongs back in Formula 1. Sam Bird has also set his sights on moving to the premier open-wheel class and hopes a strong showing in his second GP2 season will be catalyst to a F1 career. With such big dreams at stake their tie after one weekend could be the foreshadowing of a great rivalry all season long. We’ll find out soon enough, the second weekend of the series will start May 20th at the Crcuit de Catalunya near Barcelona, Spain.