Frenchman leads from lights to flag
Nathanaël Berthon has claimed his maiden GP2 victory in fine style, leading his rivals from pole to flag with a mature drive to win this morning’s sprint race in Budapest by over two seconds from Mitch Evans and Fabio Leimer.
The result was set up at the start: when the lights went out Berthon made a solid start, with Evans pulling away from the other side of the front row in formation, while behind them Leimer made a great start from P6 to be third at the first corner. Marcus Ericsson renewed hostilities with Felipe Nasr from yesterday by jumping past the Brazilian, with the pair making short work of passing Simon Trummer and Stéphane Richelmi as the field headed down the hill from the front straight.
But there was chaos behind them as everyone looked for space, with Sergio Canamasas and Daniel de Jong coming together out of the first turn: the Dutchman spun into Johnny Cecotto while Adrian Quaife-Hobbs had nowhere to go but into the Spaniard, with the resulting damage leading to a safety car period to remove the stricken cars.
One lap later the race ran live, with Berthon making a strong restart to hold his lead before heading away as he set a string of fastest laps to build a lead to last all race. Behind him Evans’ engineer was pushing for caution, however, knowing that 28 laps at the Hungaroring is long, and hard on tyres.
With the race running down, everyone picked up the pace around lap 20, and the question on everyone’s lips was whether Berthon would be able to respond: Evans started to close the gap, but the Frenchman was able to pick up enough pace to offset some of the losses, and although the New Zealander cut a few seconds out of him lead, Berthon held on to easily win by 2.2 seconds, with Leimer 11 seconds further back in third.
Ericsson drove another mature race to pick up points for fourth, while Nasr fell away from the Swede in the second half of the race but hung on from James Calado for fifth, while Trummer had a lonely race for P7 when Sam Bird dropped away in the closing laps, but still clung on for the final point in eighth.
Despite a tough weekend with no hint of points on offer, Stefano Coletti will nevertheless be delighted to head into the August break with the lead in the championship in his pocket, on 135 points from Nasr on 129, while Leimer closed in on 110 points, ahead of Bird on 92 and Calado on 90. Carlin eased away from Rapax in the Teams’ title, 193 points to 153, with RUSSIAN TIME on 143 points, Racing Engineering on 132 and DAMS on 121 ahead of the next round in Spa-Francorchamps.