RDD drivers Kovalainen and Lopez take one-two in GP2 opener Renault Development Drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jose Maria Lopez finished first and second as the new GP2 series kicked off with an entertaining opening round at Imola. The race ...
RDD drivers Kovalainen and Lopez take one-two in GP2 opener
Renault Development Drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jose Maria Lopez finished first and second as the new GP2 series kicked off with an entertaining opening round at Imola.
The race started behind a safety car due to concerns about transmission problems at the start for the still new cars, and it was enlivened further by the requirement for each driver to make two compulsory pit stops. That made it a real challenge for the teams to determine the correct strategy and time the stops to best effect.
Jose Maria (driving for DAMS) and Heikki (with Arden International) ran second and fourth from the start. The Finn drove a near faultless race, coping well with the brake problems that afflicted many of the runners. He got into the lead on lap 34 of the 37 lap race after early pacesetter and former Jordan F1 driver Giorgio Pantano made his final stop. Also nursing his brakes, Jose finished some 6.8 seconds behind, but well clear of the third placed car.
Heikki's performance was particularly impressive as he has never raced at Imola before, and his only experience there came in a recent test in a Formula Renault car. Jose Maria and Heikki will start Sunday's shorter race in seventh and eighth respectively, as the grid sees the top eight finishers from the first event in reverse order.
Heikki Kovalainen: "I went today to have lunch with Renault in the F1 paddock. Flavio came past and said, "What happened yesterday?' I said, "I'm sorry, it was a bit of a troubled session.' He said, "Are you going to win today?,' and I said, "Yes!' There was no point to be disappointed and give up when you qualify fifth. It's a long race with two pit stops, so anything can happen. During the testing in the winter we've been very competitive with new tyres and a lot of fuel. I was a little bit conservative with the brakes, and after that I thought I had to take it a little bit easier. For me the key moment was after the first pit stop, and I was able to run in clean air. I was confident I could win the race because nobody was following me and I was catching everybody, and I felt I was quite competitive.'
Jose Maria Lopez: "I'm very happy. We had some problems in the beginning of the weekend, and we didn't do a lot of laps. But in qualifying I found the car very good. I pushed and I fought for pole position. The race was quite complicated! I knew it was very important to finish, so since the first lap I was keeping cool. I started to have brake problems so it was very difficult for me, because I was pumping them all the time and I couldn't brake late. I was worried, but at the same time I knew I was quick like this. I kept going and tried not to lose too much. It was my goal to score good points here, and I scored a lot.'