Abu Dhabi GP2: Gasly overhauls Giovinazzi with Saturday win

Red Bull protege Pierre Gasly dominated the feature race of GP2's Abu Dhabi finale to pull clear of Prema teammate and title rival Antonio Giovinazzi with one race to spare.

Abu Dhabi GP2: Gasly overhauls Giovinazzi with Saturday win

Gasly had entered the weekend seven points behind Giovinazzi, but the Red Bull junior, traditionally strong around the Yas Marina Circuit, dominated qualifying to add four points to his tally, with his teammate lining up only sixth on the grid.

Both Gasly and Giovinazzi opted to do the opening stint of the feature race on the high-degrading supersoft compound, with the two drivers starting behind the Frenchman - Russians Sergey Sirotkin and Artem Markelov - choosing the same strategy.

And, crucially for Gasly, neither Sirotkin, nor Markelov managed a strong launch of the grid, allowing the Frenchman to lead comfortably into Turn 1, with Giovinazzi remaining sixth after the start.

Further into the opening lap, Sirotkin had edged closer to Gasly and had a look down the inside of the Prema driver at Turn 11, but he didn't go through with the move.

From that point on, Sirotkin was instead focused on defending second from teammate Nobuharu Matsushita, who started on medium tyres and cleared Markelov at the start.

With the mandatory stop window opening only at the end of lap six, those on supersofts soon started to suffer with degradation, with Gasly managing the situation the best and soon ending up five seconds clear of Sirotkin, who had Matsushita all over him and was soon overtaken.

The Japanese driver cut into Gasly's advantage - but the Frenchman pitted as soon as was allowed, with Sirotkin and Markelov following suit.

Giovinazzi, however, had to stay out for another lap for Prema to avoid double-pitting its drivers, and the extra tour of the circuit proved costly, the Italian losing several spots.

Despite a minor hold-up during his stop, Gasly, now on mediums, emerged well clear of nearest same-strategy rivals Sirotkin and Markelov, the latter overhauling the former. Giovinazzi, meanwhile, slumped behind Norman Nato and Nicholas Latifi, but cleared the Canadian a few laps into his stint.

After the first set of pitstops, the race settled into a rhythm, Gasly leading the early-stoppers and Matsushita controlling the race out front on medium tyres, methodically extending his lead over nearest rival Alex Lynn.

Finally, with five laps left, Matsushita came in for supersofts, rejoining not only behind Gasly but behind Markelov, only to retake second from the Russian a lap later.

He eventually finished 6.7s off Gasly, with Markelov third and Sirotkin fourth.

Giovinazzi had finished sixth on the road behind Norman Nato, but was promoted ahead of the Frenchman, who picked up a time penalty for speeding in the pitlane.

Johnny Cecotto and Lynn took seventh and eighth, making up the front row for tomorrow's reverse-grid race, with Latifi and Raffaele Marciello - who had entered the race with slim title hopes but is now mathematically eliminated - rounding out the points.

The hectic opening laps had made for an attrition-heavy race, with Sean Gelael colliding with Gustav Malja and Oliver Rowland suffering a puncture. Nabil Jeffri and series debutant Louis Deletraz both also retired.

The rest of the pack would go on to finish the race, although the most dangerous moment happened late on in the race, when Luca Ghiotto's pitcrew lost control of a tyre, with a mechanic running out right in Marciello's path to catch it.

Heading into the Sunday sprint race, Gasly leads Giovinazzi by 12 points, with the Italian set to start fourth to Gasly's eighth on the reverse grid.

Race results

 

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Abu Dhabi GP2: Gasly dominates qualifying, closes in on Giovinazzi
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