By David C. Schilke
As expected rain on the Nurburgring GP-Strecke Circuit was a major influence for the outcome of today’s GP2 sprint race. Dani Clos, Sam Bird and Giedo van der Garde started from the top of the grid but by two laps into the race their time at the front was over. That left Jules Bianchi and Romain Grosjean to fight for the lead with Charles Pic and yesterday’s winner Luca Filippi in their own squabble over third.
Battles for position waged all through the field and as the track dried all teams waited to see who would pit for slicks first. Pic was first to switch to the dry tyre, with Filippi close in tow. Soon it was clear they both made the right choice as their lap times dropped significantly. Unfortunately for Pic, his mad dash for the better rubber brought a drive thru penalty on his head. The Addax Driver failed to honor his penalty in time and was promptly excluded from the race.
We are happy with this win, which is important, and now we will try to keep our advantage, and maybe increase it a little.
Meanwhile Filippi was on a charge but couldn’t get past Grosjean as the Frenchman made the switch to dry tyers. Bianchi was last of the leaders to pit and came out just in front of the charging duo. Grosjean pressured his rival for the remaining laps until Bianchi was finally forced into a mistake. The opening was all Grosjean needed to jump into the lead and earn his fourth win of the season. The DAMS driver is now 18 point clear in the championship points lead.
“It was a very difficult race!” exclaimed Grosjean. “The conditions were very, very tough, nobody had grip so you could see the cars sliding everywhere! It was very difficult, and then my engineer told me it should be raining in ten minutes, so I was keeping the tyres alive and the rain never came!
“Then Gutierrez came back and we took the right decision to change the tyres for slicks: the team took the decision because I said ‘look at the sector, look at what the others are doing, and we will follow the trend.’ It was the right call, and then Jules did a small mistake: I tried to overtake him once but there is only one line so it is quite difficult. Then he did a mistake one lap to the end and I could go for the win: it was great, and the team did a very good job too, as you know! (laughs) We are happy with this win, which is important, and now we will try to keep our advantage, and maybe increase it a little,” added the Frenchman.
After Grosjean in the lead the fight for second placed heated up. Bianchi defended his position from Filippi for the remaining lap as the follower did all he could to force his way into second. They made contact at the famously sharp Turn 1 with Bianchi holding the line and asserting his right for the second podium spot.
Bianchi talked about losing the lead with two laps to go, “I pushed a bit, I made a mistake in the second last lap at the chicane, and Romain overtook me: I'm very disappointed because without the mistake I would have won for sure, because it was not possible to overtake. But Romain has been really strong, and all the time very close to me, so he did a really good race and I congratulate him and his team, and I thank my team because the car was good today and I think we improved a lot from yesterday, even though the track was difficult. It was my mistake today, and that's it: I'm really sorry about that.”
Filippi had to settle for third as there was only one dry line on the track, leaving little opportunity to pass. Still the Italian has much to be happy about, earning the feature win yesterday and then closing out his first weekend with Sucderia Coloni on the podium.
“It was perfect: I'm very happy!” glowed Filippi. “It was very important for us because you could see how much it meant for the boys: you could see it in their eyes, and I am so proud and happy that I could present this to them.”
Christian Vietoris crossed the line in fourth, the Racing Engineering driver earned the one point for fastest lap. Adam Carroll came home fifth for Super Nova Racing, Filippi’s old team before this weekend. Sixth was Max Chilton, taking the final point for Carlin.
Round 7 comes next week for the GP2 teams. Held at the Hungaroring near Budapest there will be little time for rest as the circus packs up and heads to where the West and East converge. Giedo van der Garde will need a better weekend if he hopes to close the gap to Grosjean for the title. The Addax driver had the pace this weekend, but was short on luck. Another weekend like this and Grosjean may already be on his way to locking up this year’s championship.
Team AirAsia driver Davide Valsecchi will drop ten grid places for the feature race in Budapest after this GP2 officials found him responsible for making contact with Jolyon Palmer of Arden Racing.