Timo Glock started the first GP2 Series race at the Nurburgring from the pole position, but while he took a convincing victory for iSport in the end, it was not a simple cruise to the finish for the German. It was Lucas di Grassi who got the ...
Timo Glock started the first GP2 Series race at the Nurburgring from the pole position, but while he took a convincing victory for iSport in the end, it was not a simple cruise to the finish for the German.
It was Lucas di Grassi who got the better of Glock at the start, edging in front of his rival before the first corner, the two front-runners followed by Giorgio Pantano, Pastor Maldonado and Kazuki Nakajima.
"It was tough, especially at the beginning: another bad start and I don't know why," Glock explained. "It's every time at the bite point and it starts shifting away, and when I release the clutch the car doesn't start moving away really, so we really have to look at that, especially for tomorrow where it's a bigger problem for that race."
In the pack, though, there was mayhem as Sebastien Buemi ran into Luca Flippi's sidepod, flipping up and over the blameless Italian. Amazingly, the rest of the field was able to negotiate its way around Buemi's and Filippi's cars, preventing further carnage.
At the front, Di Grassi was strong early on, pulling a gap on Glock, while Maldonado outbraked Pantano at the end of the front straight, passing the Italian at the first turn. Pantano was not about to give up, though, and was quickly pressuring Maldonado for a mistake.
Nakajima, who was behind the leading foursome, decided to use pit stop strategy to find some clear air, and made his compulsory pit stop early. Rejoining the race well back, in sixteenth position, he was quickly setting fastest lap times.
"It was always the plan to come in early, depending what happened on the first lap of course," the DAMS driver said. "I had a good start and maybe picked up a few spots, but the first corner was a bit of a mess and I think I was a bit lucky to survive that! After that I was in P5, and so we did an early pitstop as we planned, and we knew that our race pace has been quite good and consistent, and we knew it was good for the tyres and we were pretty confident for the tyre life."
Adrian Zaugg, who had been behind Nakajima, turned his attention on Pantano, and now the Maldonado-Pantano fight turned into a three-way one, until Pantano decided that a pit stop would be more effective than being stuck behind his rival, diving in for his stop on lap six. Zaugg joined him, but when the pair returned to the track, they discovered that Nakajima's strategy was working well so far, the pair slotting behind the Japanese driver.
Di Grassi stopped three laps later, and he, too, discovered that Nakajima's early stop, combined with his subsequent pace, was a potent combination. The Italian managed to return just in front of Nakajima and Pantano -- would that be first or second once Glock pitted?
Glock, though, was released from behind Di Grassi, and the young German was pushing hard to set quick lap times before pitting. He did set a fast race lap, and then dove into the pit lane, hard, almost contacting the pit wall on pit entry. A quick stop by the iSport team done, and Glock was on the pit exit -- and just nipped Di Grassi on his return to the track.
"I think the pitstop was okay and we had to stop first because we were leading," Di Grassi recounted. "I would have made the same decision, and it was a good in lap, a good out lap, I pushed the most I could, but not enough to keep Timo behind me: he was really, really fast in those two laps."
But while he was at the front of the top runners, Jason Tahinci and Kohei Hirate were still ahead of him on track, not having made their mandatory stops yet. Glock and Di Grassi managed to pass Tahinci after some furious efforts, but Hirate resisted their efforts, only giving way when he pitted on lap 20.
Hirate's late stop worked well for him, too, as he returned to the track alongside Maldonado. The duo battled into the next corner, but Maldonado held firm, and maintained his fifth place. Eventually, though, the pressure Hirate was putting on his teammate paid off, as Hirate snatched fifth place.
In the end, it was Glock on top by 2.274 seconds over Di Grassi, with . Nakajima less than half a second behind the Italian Pantano and Hirate . were a further 16 seconds adrift, and were then followed by Maldonado .
The sprint race will be held tomorrow, with the top six of today's race finishers reversed for the grid, so Maldonado will start from the pole position, then, followed by Hirate, Pantano and Nakajima.