Adrian Quaife-Hobbs claimed his first GP2 Series victory in Monza today (Sunday), with a controlled lights-to-flag drive in this morning’s 21-lap Sprint race. Capitalising on the slow start by poleman Alexander Rossi, Quaife-Hobbs wasted no time in grabbing the initiative and extended his lead to 1.8 seconds at the flag, to take his second successive podium finish.
After making a few changes to the initial set-up to the #22 car, Quaife-Hobbs headed back out, but unable to make the best of his tyres, wound up 16th. He was later promoted to 15th when Dani Clos’s times were disallowed.
Lining up on row eight for the 30-lap feature race on Saturday afternoon, Quaife-Hobbs made a great start to gain four places before the first corner. A stirring opening few laps allowed the reigning AutoGP World Series Champion to move up to ninth before making an early pit stop in an attempt to get a clear track.
After the stops, although Felipe Nasr rejoined immediately in front of Quaife-Hobbs, with the Tonbridge racer on hotter tyres he looked promising to find a way past. However, with Nasr’s engine now spewing out oil, visibility for Quaife-Hobbs was compromised, and by the time Nasr pulled off into retirement Quaife-Hobbs’ chances of pushing on further came to a finish. He held on to finish seventh however, and secure a front row start for Sunday’s top eight reverse grid, sprint race.
At the lights, a superb getaway allowed the 22 year-old to get the jump on Rossi to lead into the first corner, ahead of Julian Leal and Sam Bird, with Rossi dropping to fourth. A rapid pace in the opening five laps saw Quaife-Hobbs record fastest lap after fastest lap, and stretch his lead to 1.4 seconds.
A brief mid-race shower, while causing minor concern, did not deter Quaife-Hobbs, and although the field closed up momentarily, he held on to the lead. In the closing laps, Rossi managed to find a way past Leal and Bird, but despite closing the gap to just over a second, Quaife-Hobbs held his nerve and the place.
Pushing on, Quaife-Hobbs consistently proved the quickest driver on track, his final lap some half a tenth shy of the fastest. Even hitting the dirty edge of the final corner of the final lap could not stop the Briton from extending his lead to 1.8 seconds to record his first GP2 win and seal the fourth victory for the Hilmer Motorsport team.
“We knew the pace was good this weekend and victory in the second race was the perfect result,” said Adrian. “In the opening race I made a good start to get up to 11th, and took the decision to pit early and try and get a clear track. I was stuck behind Nasr, with oil spewing out, so it was hard to get close enough to make a pass. I was attacking him all the way, but without that I could possibly have got sixth.
“In race two, I made another good start and managed to break the slipstream and pull out a one second gap by the end of lap one. When the rain came on lap seven, it was tricky. Naturally being first round means you pretty much dictate the race, but after it stopped everything settled down and I was able to push all the way through. I really wanted fastest lap, and my last lap was my best, but I lost some time on the dirty edge of the track at the last corner, but I was still only half a tenth off the quickest lap.
“Nevertheless I’m really happy with my first win in GP2, we’ve proved again we have good race pace and are consistently competitive. The car was really good all weekend, pretty much perfect, but now we need to focus on qualifying as it would be nice to get a good result in Saturday’s feature race.”
The series continues with the penultimate round in Singapore over the weekend of 21&22 of September, a new circuit to Quaife-Hobbs, but where he looks to repeat the performance to elevate himself in the championship standings.