By: Nancy Knapp Schilke
- Pic and van der Garde give team a 1-2 finish
- Bird finished 3rd for valuable points
- Grosjean excluded from race 1 results
Charles Pic edged out his Barwa Addax teammate Giedo van der Garde to earn his first victory in the 2011 GP2 Main Series in Barcelona, Spain. Sam Bird was not far off the two and finished third. The Feature race was action packed from the standing start to the checkered flag as the young drivers put on a show in front of the Formula One teams and fans on the Circuit de Catalunya.
“My start was okay, I conserved my position during the first 8 to 10 laps until Sam's tires began to degrade, I then tried to overtake him but it was very, very hard! So I preferred to save my tires and he decided to pit,” said Pic. “After that Giedo had a little problem in his pitstop so we passed him, and I wasn't expecting to be in first position! [laughs] After that I was trying to manage the degradation, and that's it!”
It can happen but it's a pity, because this was our race.
Pic has his team to thank for getting him in front of his main challengers for today’s win. The tire wear with the earlier rubber laid down on the surface was a critical key in the first race of the weekend for the GP2 drivers and moving from third into the lead due to the pit stop proved to be the winning move.
“It was the team who chose to stop me one lap after (Bird), and again it was the right strategy and why we passed him, in the pitstop,” Pic said of the strategy before the race.
Van der Garde held the lead from the pole position when the lights went out and put on a strong challenge in the final half of the race to overtake his teammate but in the end had to settle for second.
“I’m happy, but the win was there. I think we were incredibly fast today, and the car was handling really, really good, so thank you to the team because they gave me a brilliant car today,” said van de Garde. “I think we were fast and going to a good point in the lead, more or less five or six seconds. The strategy was not planned, we had an option to go for two or four tyres, but because we had a big gap we said let's go for four tyres because we will make it: we did it, but we struggled on the left rear, I let of the clutch a little early too, so we lost two or three seconds. It can happen but it's a pity, because this was our race.”
Behind the two Barwa Addax team cars was the man chasing for the overall points lead. Sam Bird pushed as hard as he could while keeping Romain Grosjean at bay. Bird did take the final podium for the iSport International team.
Bird commented after the race: “It's nice to get another podium. First of all, congratulations to Addax: they were the team to beat today, and they were extremely quick. It would be nice to say we could have won today, and that is a thought that may linger in the back of my head a little bit: the pitstop wasn't particularly good, and when I was released it was into a train of backmarkers, which cost me quite a bit of time.
“But no taking it away from these guys, they did a mega job, and I suppose a part of mounting a championship challenge is this was not a brilliant race for us but it's still a podium. I'm going away from it a little disappointed, but it's still third position: it's not that bad, “ he added.
Jules Bianchi and Luiz Razia had the best seats on the grid to watch Luca Fillippi sail off course with front end damage at the start. Enter the safety car to pack-up the field as Fillippi made his way back to the pits for a new front wing but the his Super Nova Racing car proved to have substantial damage and his race was over.
Luck was on the side of the top three at the restart when Dani Clos needed to let Marcus Ericsson pass him after he had moved ahead of Ericsson under the yellow flag. That slowed down those who were looking to stay in touch with the leaders. Both Stefano Coletti and Davide Valsecchi had no room to get around Clos.
It was the mandatory pit stops that changed the race when Pic’s team decided to give him two rear tires but left the fronts on despite the degrading of the tires. It was a calculated move as he left with the lead of the race. Van der Garde saw his lead vanish as he had four new tires with a bit longer of a pit stop. Still the team was in one-two on the track and if Pic’s tires wore out, his own teammate was in the position to take the win.
Bird had a great pit stop but after the race he said, “I tried to manage my tyres a little more, and even with managing them I degraded a little bit, which enabled Charles to get onto the back of me. When I felt them go a little bit too far I thought it was time to pit, so that was that, really.”
For Grosjean, the pit stop was good but they took the gamble to pit later than the others which did not pay off when he re-entered the circuit directly behind his teammate’s rear wing with no opportunity to pass
Pic was building a very nice gap when the safety car had to return to the track. Esteban Gutierrez and Michael Herck had a come together. But Pic was up to the challenge and had a perfect restart, leaving van de Garde and Bird behind.
Grosjean placed fourth followed by Valsecchi , Ericsson, and Clos. Bianchi was eighth and will start on the pole for Sunday’s sprint race.
Editor’s note: Grosjean was excluded from today’s race results. Per the GP2 Series officials, “… it was found that the Dams driver’s car did not comply with the technical regulations.” It also costs him the points for a fourth place finish and Grosjean will start last in the sprint race.
Ninth place finisher today, Fabio Leimer, will now hold the pole slot for tomorrow’s race. Bianchi will start second from the front row.
See Race 1 Results