The GP2 Asia Series finale, which was held this past weekend at the Autodromo Dino e Enzo Ferrari as a make-up for the cancelled Bahrain races, did not work out in favor of Lotus ART. The team had come to Italy in the hopes of adding a second GP2 Asia Series title to their record, but had to bow before Dams and Romain Grosjean, whom they would like to congratulate on their success. Jules Bianchi finished Runner-up in the GP2 Asia Series, and Esteban Gutierrez scored his first points at the end of his first participation in a race meeting in this category.
The Italian episode was a founding element for Lotus ART, which leaves Emilia-Romagna with the sense that they have laid down some solid foundations in preparation for the GP2 Main Series championship, which kicks off the first weekend in May in Istanbul, Turkey.
In Imola, Jules Bianchi was unable to give a repeat performance of his showing at Abu Dhabi, where he qualified on the first row of the starting grid, before winning the first race thanks to a remarkable start. Track conditions were not favorable to the qualities of his single-seater in the second qualifying session, where he finished 4th. Jules had an average start compared to the drivers around him, instantly outflanked Sam Bird, but had to avoid the British driver. In the maneuver, the front left wing of his Dallara was damaged in contact with Giedo Van der Garde, who had slipped in with authority on the inside of the first few rows. In fifth after the first lap, Jules had some of the best race laps, despite an aerodynamic handicap, and managed to get by Kral and Herck with some solid overtaking maneuvers. He crossed the finish line hot on the heels of Van der Garde, and scored points for 3rd place, which enabled him to stay in the running for the title despite Roman Grosjean’s win. The following day, his adventure ended at the Tamburello corner when he was caught up in a chain reaction accident triggered by Fauzy.
Esteban Gutierrez moved up from 15th to 11th place in the first race with his main objective being to gain experience behind the wheel of a 2011 GP2 car equipped with Pirelli tyres. In the second race, the Mexican driver did an ideal job of putting into practice what he learned in the first race, finishing 4th with the second best race lap, 5 tenths off the record.
Jules Bianchi: “Even though the lap times don’t suggest it, our free sessions were very productive, particularly with a successful race simulation in which we were able to figure out the behavior of the tyres and realize that we were very fast in this set-up. In qualifying, everything went well with the first set of tyres, but I had some understeer with the second set which we were unable to explain why. Fourth place is a good start all the same, but I had too much wheel spin at the start of the first race. Bird had even more trouble than me and I had swerve quickly to get around him. Van der Garde came by at full speed and touched me. I was still able to pick up the pace and overtake several drivers and in the end it was too late to try and overtake Van der Garde. On Sunday I had nothing to lose and I was ready to give it my all and have fun, but I was forced out of the race at the Tamburello corner. It’s too bad because I think we were about to do something! Despite the disappointment of letting the title slip away, I am happy that we have everything we need to head into the Main Series with confidence and peace of mind.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “The main goal for this weekend is to obtain as much experience as I can and to get ready for the European season, making good use of track time and do a smart race to try and get a good result. Mission accomplished! I knew this track from my previous years in Junior Formula and I quickly came to grips with it. We did a good race simulation in practice and I was confident for the qualifying. Unfortunately I had a contact with another driver who made a mistake and it cost me a lot of time. Basically, I just had one lap and could not do better than 15th. Honestly, after my DNF in Abu Dhabi, the aim of the first race was to see the chequered flag and to go through all the procedures of the feature race. That’s what we did and I’m happy about it. I made a very good start in the second race and then I avoided the crash in the first corner. I was aggressive and smart to overtake other drivers who were too conservative on the opening lap. I was 5th and fought hard to overtake reigning champion Romain Grosjean which I did a bit on track and after the race when he got penalized. The GP2 Asia Series has been successful for me. It is always difficult but important to take a good start in a series and I feel confident going into the Main Series. I learnt a great deal and I know that together with Lotus ART we can do a very good job in the main championship. I’m looking forward to it.”
Frederic Vasseur: “Imola has not always been very good to us until now. For our return, the assessment is generally very positive, even if we are not happy finishing the series in second place. But there are many essential reasons to be encouraged: Esteban is progressing quickly and quite well as he demonstrated with his magnificent race on Sunday. As for Jules, he has constantly had a good pace. It is not his fault what happened in his two rough starts, and if it weren’t for a competitor being in such a hurry in the first corner, he might have been able to get a third podium in four races. I am also very satisfied with our progress in managing the tyres throughout the races. It will be a key factor in the start of the GP2 Main Series championship.”
-source: lotus art