Davide Valsecchi must think he is dreaming as he celebrates his second victory of the GP2 Series second round of the 2012 season. The unstoppable DAMS driver started the Sprint Race from eighth on the grid, after taking the Feature Race win on Saturday. It is rare in the tightly-contested series to see a driver leave with the pole and one win; let alone a clean sweep. The Italian also was on top of the timesheets for the single practice on Friday, and he set the fastest laps in both races at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir.
“It's the best weekend of my career! A big thanks to the whole team who gave me a fantastically well-prepared car for practice and the races with an impeccable pit stop. On Saturday and Sunday I made great starts and I fought hard to achieve this happy end! With the DAMS team I can fight with the best and we're going to make sure this continues starting from next week."
It's the best weekend of my career!
Today’s action packed sprint race appeared to be in the capable hands of Lotus GP driver Esteban Gutierrez, and then came the final lap dash to the finish line, and Valsecchi made the pass for the win. Gutierrez saw his first win of the year evaporate as Valsecchi just had better tires at the end of the sprint.
"It was very challenging to save the tyres," explained Gutierrez. "We were not so strong at the end of the race compared to yesterday. It’s definitely something that was difficult. At the beginning I was trying to get some clean air to manage my tyres for the end of the race. I pushed a little bit and it had some consequences at the end. But still, we have to work and find a solution to try to gain this benefit and be at the same level as DAMS as they have quite a strong car in this aspect. But, we are very happy because I think for the team, it is important to be consistently in the points. We need to continue like this."
Tires played a major role in today's race. Unlike Saturday's feature, there were no scheduled pitstops in the sprint race, meaning drivers had to be mindful of their rubber for the entire race distance. The ones who could balance pace while being gentle on the tires would move to the front. For Valsecchi the strategy played brilliantly as the DAMS driver waiting to the end of the race to make his move, by then his rivals had pushed their tires too hard.
First to capitalize on tire degradation was Fabio Leimer, who closed in on the Lotus GP teammates leading up front. Leimer handily took the lead, and made the Lotus GP boys waste more rubber while defending in the process. Leimer might have ran away with the race but was given a drive-thru penalty for not observing the yellow flags. With that penalty served Gutierrez took back the lead with teammate James Calado in second before Valsecchi passed them on the way to victory. Leimer ended his weekend in a disappointing 12th place.
Calado had leapt into the lead from fourth on the grid but soon found himself in the clutches Gutierrez, "It was disappointing to drop back, but I put up a fight with Esteban to see if I had one chance. But I realised that my pace was slow so I let Valsecchi past because there is no point racing a really slow car." The Lotus GP driver had to settle for the final podium spot.
Luiz Razia brought his Arden International entry home in fourth followed by Max Chilton's Carlin rounding out the top five. Polestitter Fabio Onidi had a disappointing race and finished 14th. Conversely, Felipe Nasr in the second DAMS put in an impressive race to finish 6th after starting from the back of the gird.
The series will remain in Bahrain for the third round on the 2012 calendar with practice, qualifying and feature race on Friday. The sprint race will be held on Saturday.
Circuit de Catalunya will be next on the calendar for the series' first stop in the European tour that comprises eight races. May 11th will kick off with qualifying before the normal two race weekend. Tires shouldn't play such a major role in Barcelona as it did in Bahrain so one can expect the results to be reflective more on a driver's raw pace then how well they can save their rubber.