By: Nancy Knapp Schilke
- First GP2 win for Gutierrez
- Razia 2nd, Van der Garde 3rd
- Grosjean barely kept points lead
Lotus ART’s Gutierrez tasted victory at the start line and held on for his maiden win
Esteban Gutierrez did not let Luiz Razia pressure him as the two GP2 Series drivers were battling for the second at the start of today’s Sprint race on the Valenica Street Circuit in Spain. The Mexican held his ground to take position for the Lotus ART team, and later took the top spot from Josef Kral.
We finally achieved it.
Gutierrez scored his first career GP2 win in his first season for the main GP2 series and was followed across the line by Team AirAsia’s Razia, who was nearly 13 seconds adrift of the race winner. Giedo van der Garde place third but for the Barwa Addax Team driver from the Netherlands, it was a very important podium finish.
"Actually it's a very good result for us, a very good step from what we did at the previous events. Of course it's always important to be very progressive and to be very constant, and we struggled a bit with this in the first few events: now in Valencia it was our main goal to be constant, and to do a step. We finally achieved it, and this is something that personally and inside the team makes us very motivated, because the way it's working is going in the right direction: this is very important for us, to keep some confidence. But we have to be realistic: it's only one win, it's only one event, and we have to keep getting points and to improve," said Gutierrez.
Pole winner Kral had an excellent start but on the restart after the appearance of the safety car, the Arden driver made a mistake trying to fend off Gutierrez. Kral went too hot into Turn 4, a very tight slow corner, which allowed both Gutierrez and Razia to slip ahead of him. Kral then had both van der Garde and Dani Clos looking for a way past him and they both overtook the Czech driver in the hairpin. However the duo could not close the gap to the Gutierrez and Razia.
The reason for the early safety car appearance was due to first lap incidents. Sam Bird was hit from behind by yesterday’s Feature race winner Romain Grosjean as they headed into the 3rd turn. Bird was able to slowly make his way back to his iSport’s pit box but the damage was done and the Briton had to settle for 12th. Bird held the point lead with Grosjean when they arrived in Valencia but he leaves Spain with little to show for his efforts this weekend.
Grosjean was not yet done causing havoc and the second incident on the opening lap brought out the yellow flags and the safety car as debris was strewn both on and off the track in the Turn 5. The Frenchman spun his DAMS team car causing Rodolfo Gonzalez (Trident Racing) and Charles Pic (Addax) searching for an attempt to avoid Grosjean but to no avail. The marshals were able to not only clean the track but to get all three cars off the racing surface and out of harm’s way.
For Gutierrez, the rest of the race was smooth sailing as he kept up his pace to score the victory. With Grosjean out of the race action, and therefore not receiving points, van der Garde kept his pace and while trying to stay in touch with the Mexican, the Dutchman was aware of the value of the points.
Kral’s bad restart turned into a worse disaster when he spun out of the race.
Gutierrez claimed his win by expressing pure joy when took the checkered flag. In the closing laps, Razia had a late race charge to ensure he crossed the finish line in second. By finishing third and with Grosjean out of the race action, and therefore not receiving points, van der Garde closed up the gap today and is only one point out of the championship lead.
Davide Valsecchi made a bold move to overtake Clos in the closing laps. It was Clos’ home race and he had to use all he could muster in his Racing Engineering car to keep Scuderia Coloni’s Michael Herck from taking fifth as they crossed the finish line.
With Grosjean out of the race action, and therefore not receiving points, van der Garde closed up the gap today and is only one point out of the championship lead. The teams leave with Spain with Grosjean holding 34 points to van der Grade’s 33. Valsecchi now has 30 followed by Bird with 27 points.