Neel Jani took his first GP2 series victory today at the Hungaroring circuit of Budapest, followed in a tight finish by Heikki Kovalainen and Giorgio Pantano, all within 1.7 seconds at the chequered flag. Yesterday's disqualification of Nico ...
Neel Jani took his first GP2 series victory today at the Hungaroring circuit of Budapest, followed in a tight finish by Heikki Kovalainen and Giorgio Pantano, all within 1.7 seconds at the chequered flag.
Yesterday's disqualification of Nico Rosberg, who set the fastest time but was penalised for technical reasons, was a key help for the Swiss to claim the first place in Hungary.
"I had a good start, the car was really good in the beginning, and it didn't go down in performance as much as in the other races -- it went down, but not so much, and I really have to say thank you to the team for this good improvement", commented the winner.
This was the first time that Jani had reached a podium in the series. Until today, two fourth places had been his best results.
The most dramatic moment of the race was the restart after the safety car that had all the field together again. "I'd say Heikki took quite a risk there, and he looked more like a Japanese driver than a Finnish one! I saw there was a yellow spot in my mirrors, and I thought wow, there is someone flying there, and I opened and he went by and I just managed to get in, but I think he took a lot of risk there", Jani said.
After that hot restart, Jani managed to stay in the lead but always with Kovalainen and Pantano in his mirrors.
For Jani, this first GP2 victory was the test he needed to pass to show he is in the high level: "I have proved it now, because I always knew that I could do it and that I could compete with these guys here -- we just needed to get it a little bit right, and now I think it is more or less right. And there is more to come".
And Kovalainen has returned to the podium after Germany last weekend. The Finn drove a strong race and took the advantage of Rosberg's problems to get more points for the championship.
Great teamwork in the pits allowed Kovalainen to get behing Pantano, but it wasn't enough to pass Jani, who stopped a couple of laps later, on 18. "At least our pitstop was quite good, so we managed to come back, and we were right there. It could have easily been another story, but it wasn't", Kovalainen mentioned.
"We changed the tyres (in the pitstop) and it felt really good and I could push. It was close -- it was close after Jani made his pitstop, and I initially lost a little bit to him when he had fresh tyres, and towards the end I could catch up a little bit but I just couldn't get past him", he said.
He will have tomorrow the challenge of a start from seventh place in a circuit where it is hard to overtake another car. "I'm going to try and make a better start, and then I'm going to try and fight -- it's going to be difficult, but it's possible to overtake if you get everything right and especially if you have enough pace. We are looking for a good fight tomorrow, and to get a few more points".
Italian Pantano expected more for this first race of the double round weekend. ""I could have won the race today", he said after the podium ceremony.
The Super Nova driver fought for the victory since the green lights came up but he wasn't able to beat Jani and Kovalainen in the end.
A mistake of his own was one reason for Pantano not to win on the Hungaroring: "I made a little mistake after ten laps at corner four, which is the quick one, and we lost five seconds. And I think that was probably the difference between me winning and not winning, because if I hadn't lost it I think I would have had a quite good chance to win the race".
Pantano repeated his Hockenheim podium, for the third of the season, which shows that Super Nova and the Italian are climbing in GP2 after a difficult start to the year.
"I think when I started this season it was clear in my head that I will be here and at the front to compete for the championship, but we were too unlucky and had so many problems, and the results couldn't come. I think now that, if everything goes well, we will be there at the front now and have the chance to win", Pantano commented.
The Italian now shares the ninth place in the championship along Nelson. A Piquet, both with 24 points .
The ART Grand Prix drivers, Rosberg and Premat, recovered from yesterday's blow to take strong fourth and fifth places at the chequered flag after they started from 23th and 24th in the grid.
Kovalainen took some air in the championship as he now leads with 77 points, 10 ahead Rosberg. Scott Speed continues as a strong third with 50, while the fight behind him has Premat and Jani with 37, Adam Carroll with 34 and Gianmaria Bruni with 33.
Betweeen the teams, ART leads over Arden, 99 to 83. Super Nova is third with 55. iSport and Racing Engineering are in a hard battle for fourth 38 to 34.
Tomorrow's sprint racew will have Alex Negrao on the pole alongside Olivier Pla, and expert in Sunday races, in the front row. Rosberg starts from fourth and will try to cut the gap with Kovalainen in the championship.