David C. Schilke, GP2 correspondent
GP3 vice champion made an early mark on the next rung of the Formula 1 ladder by earning the GP2 sprint race win in Abu Dhabi. The Lotus ART driver started from pole position and never gave up his advantage to close the 2011 season out in style. Calado will stay with the Lotus ART team for the 2012 season, and if today’s performance was any indication, the Brit will be an up and coming driver to watch next year.
“It’s a fantastic feeling," smiled Calado. “The emotion going over the line was incredible. I really need to thank Racing Steps Foundation and Lotus ART for the opportunity to drive this weekend. Without these guys I wouldn’t be here at all. To be at such a prestigious event and to win is just great.”
Off the line Calado sped away with the lead but fellow GP3 graduate Antonio Felix Da Costa was right on his gearbox. Meanwhile Marcus Ericsson was working his way up the field and soon turned the pressure around on Felix Da Costa. It took the iSport driver a few laps but eventually Ericsson was into second and chasing after Calado. Ericsson had the pace in the first half of the lap but each time he would close Calado was able to pull away.
Ericsson admitted his goal today was to dominate, “I mean after our strong performance from yesterday I was really looking forward to trying to win the race. But James did a good job. I think I was a bit quicker than him but it’s not easy to overtake here. If a driver does not make a mistake, it’s very difficult to pass him and if you do it it’s still a big risk. So, I’m happy for the team. We’ve had a great weekend here with both drivers. I think everyone is happy. It was a shame we did not win but it was still a good performance.”
Felix Da Costa found himself in third but Luiz Razia was soon after the final podium position and pressured the Portuguese driver. Razia soon got the jump on the Ocean Racing Technology car and when Felix Da Costa tried to answer back he ended up having to cut through a corner. Felix Da Costa was handed a drive thru penalty, which dropped him out of the top ten. It looked like Razia would sail home to third but the Team AirAsia car was also handed a penalty for ignoring the yellow flags. Razia would go on to finish eighth, while Felix Da Costa had to settle for 13th.
With two penalties served to the cars ahead of him Tom Dillmann was able to get the second iSport entry on the podium. “It’s been a great weekend from free practice till Sprint Race, everything went really well. I’m really happy. I feel really good in the car because it suits my driving style pretty well. And for the first day of test I was quite good and I finished P1 in Barcelona on my second day in a GP2 car. I carried on here with P3 in free practice on my first time in Abu Dhabi so that was good. Unfortunately, qualifying did not go so well. It’s difficult between the traffic and the red flag to put a good lap. But it’s still very good.”
Both Calado and Dillmann earned seven points from this weekend, but Calado’s win broke the tie, making him the highest placed GP3 driver in Abu Dhabi. For his efforts the Brit earned 15,000 Euros awarded by Pirelli as the best GP3 graduate. Dillmann was scored as second best and earned 10,000 Euros for next season.