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Razia secures Sepang feature race honours

Luiz Razia - GP2 Feature Race

Luiz Razia backed up his qualifying result by securing the first victory of the 2012 GP2 Series at Sepang. Having taken the lead at the start, the Brazilian driver didn’t look back as he secured his first victory since Monza 2009 and Arden’s first since Barcelona 2010. Completing the podium was DAMS Davide Valsecchi and Carlin’s Max Chilton. For Chilton and Carlin, it was their first GP2 podium finish.

Razia seized the advantage at the start, as Valsecchi made a poor getaway which dropped him down to fourth, behind the fast starting Fabio Leimer (Racing Engineering), who had jumped up the order from fifth to lie second, while lying third was Scuderia Coloni’s Stefano Coletti. By the end of the opening lap, Razia had opened up a two second advantage and would never be caught by his rivals.

Behind, the battle for second started to heat up and it was Coletti who was intent on moving up the order, and he made his move on Leimer before allowing Valsecchi to gain the position and on the sixth lap, Valsecchi moved back into second, 5.1s behind Razia.

Valsecchi was on a charge and he went about setting the fastest lap of the race as he chased down Razia in the Arden International car but the Brazilian driver maintained the advantage to the Italian. Leimer, on the other hand, was struggling to keep Coletti and Chilton behind him while GP3 graduate James Calado (Lotus GP) and British Formula 3 Champion Felipe Nasr (DAMS) were in close company.

Coletti was the first driver in the lead pack to make his pitstop, while Leimer and Nasr followed suit a lap later. Chilton and Calado made their stops after that while Valsecchi waiting until lap twelve, which handed second place to Calado’s Lotus GP team-mate, Esteban Gutierrez, who had worked his way up from fifteenth on the grid.

Razia pitted on lap fourteen and rejoined with a 9.7s advantage over Valsecchi, while Chilton had moved into the top three and then spent the remainder of the race defending his position from Leimer, while the battle for points and Pole Position for the second race saw Coletti, Nasr, Calado, Gutierrez, Giedo van der Garde (Caterham Racing) and Fabrizio Crestani (Venezuela GP Lazarus) all in a close battle, and Gutierrez secured seventh after Calado went wide at turn fifteen.

Rain approached the circuit and with four laps remaining, was reported at turn six. No drivers switched to the intermediate tyres and at the flag, Razia secured the victory from Valsecchi and Chilton. Rounding out the top ten was Leimer, Coletti, Nasr, Gutierrez, Calado, van der Garde and Crestani – positions three to nine were nose to tail while Crestani finished just two seconds behind.

Calado and Gutierrez form up the front row for the sprint race tomorrow, while Razia and Valsecchi will line up on the fourth row of the grid.

Pole for Valsecchi in Malaysia

Davide Valsecchi

Davide Valsecchi secured the opening Pole Position for the 2012 GP2 Series at Sepang, ensuring that the DAMS outfit continued their 2011 Championship winning form.

Joining Valsecchi on the front row is his 2011 Caterham Team Air Asia (Now named Caterham Racing) team-mate, Luiz Razia, who joined Arden International over the winter. Rounding out the top three is Max Chilton for Carlin.

Valsecchi set his Pole Position time on his third lap of the session and wasn’t beaten, but four others came close to bettering the Italians time, as the top five were covered by a tenth of a second.

The early running was set by Lotus GP’s Esteban Gutierrez, before Rodolfo Gonzalez (Caterham Racing) topped the times, beating Gutierrez’s best effort by a tenth of a second. Valsecchi soon bettered Gonzalez time and moved to the top of the times, having dipped below the 1m46 mark.

Valsecchi’s DAMS team-mate, 2011 British Formula 3 Champion Felipe Nasr soon made it a DAMS one, two but soon, Racing Engineering saw Fabio Leimer move into P2, 0.09s slower than the Italian driver.

Gonzalez brought out a yellow flag having run too wide and once the track was green again, Chilton was soon on the move and slotted into P2, closing to within 0.06s of Valsecchi, and Stefano Coletti soon put the Scuderia Coloni car into P3 as he took advantage of a clear track.

The final ten minutes saw the battle for Pole Position intensify and it was Razia who soon moved up to P2, having been fastest in the second and third sectors, and his time left him 0.6s off Valsecchi, while Chilton, Coletti and Leimer all finished within a tenth of the DAMS driver.

The top nineteen drivers were covered by 0.9s, and the top ten was completed by GP3 graduate James Calado (Lotus GP), Jolyon Palmer (iSport International), Giedo van der Garde (Caterham Racing), Fabio Onidi (Scuderia Coloni) and Nasr.

Valsecchi will face a tough fight tomorrow to secure the victory as the tyre strategy will be one to watch, as preserving the Pirelli tyres will be key to having a good race in the heat and humidity of Malaysia.

GP2 Qualifying Results:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Davide Valsecchi DAMS 1m45.494
2 Luiz Razia Arden International 1m45.554
3 Max Chilton Carlin 1m45.558
4 Stefano Coletti Scuderia Coloni 1m45.577
5 Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering 1m45.588
6 James Calado Lotus GP 1m45.638
7 Jolyon Palmer iSport International 1m45.758
8 Giedo van der Garde Caterham Racing 1m45.773
9 Fabio Onidi Scuderia Coloni 1m45.810
10 Felipe Nasr DAMS 1m45.942
11 Johnny Cecotto Barwa Addax Team 1m46.012
12 Fabrizio Crestani Venezuela GP Lazarus 1m46.138
13 Stephane Richelmi Trident Racing 1m46.150
14 Josef Kral Barwa Addax Team 1m46.160
15 Esteban Gutierrez Lotus GP 1m46.186
16 Tom Dillmann Rapax 1m46.264
17 Rio Haryanto Carlin 1m46.392
18 Nathanael Berthon Racing Engineering 1m46.428
19 Nigel Melker Ocean Racing Technology 1m46.489
20 Marcus Ericsson iSport International 1m46.557
21 Jon Lancaster Ocean Racing Technology 1m46.662
22 Julian Leal Trident Racing 1m46.868
23 Rodolfo Gonzalez Caterham Racing 1m46.962
24 Simon Trummer Arden International 1m47.004
25 Ricardo Teixeira Rapax 1m48.113
26 Giancarlo Serenelli Venezuela GP Lazarus 1m49.620

2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series Line Up Announced.

The thirteen teams which will compete in the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series have been announced today by the World Series by Renault Organising Committee.

Eleven of the teams who competed in the 2011 campaign have been selected while the two new outfits for 2012 are GP2 Champions and former Formula Renault 3.5 Series runners DAMS and GP2/GP3 outfit Arden International.

The selections were made after the organising committee looked at all eighteen applications, and chose the teams on the strength of their sporting experience and their marketing and financial considerations.

Arden International Ltd was formed in 1997 by Christian and Garry Horner and in 2000; the team secured their maiden crown in F3000, before securing the Teams’ Championship in 2002.

2003 and 2004 saw the team secure the drivers title with Bjorn Wirdheim and Vitantonio Liuzzi and since 2005; the team have been competing in the Formula One supporting GP2 series and since 2010, alongside Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber, in GP3 as MW Arden.

DAMS have taken part in the Le Mans 24 Hour race on a number of occasions, and a wide array of honours within single-seater racing.

They have won three F3000 Championship titles, with Erik Comas in 1990, Olivier Panis in 1993 and Jean-Christophe Boullion in 1994, the 2003 Eurocup Formula Renault V6 Championship with Jose Maria Lopez.

They’ve also secured two GP2 Drivers’ titles, with Kamui Kobayashi in 2009 and Romain Grosjean this season plus the 2011 GP2 Asia Championship title with Grosjean.

Two teams have been placed on a waiting list in case any of the thirteen selected outfits don’t meet their contractual obligations by 15 January 2012.

The thirteen selected teams for the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series are:

  • Arden International Ltd
  • BVM Target
  • Carlin
  • Comtec Racing
  • DAMS
  • International Draco Racing
  • Fortec Motorsports
  • Gravity-Charouz
  • ISR
  • KMP Racing
  • P1 Motorsport
  • Pons Racing
  • Tech 1 Racing

The two teams on standby for the 2012 campaign are:

  • Koiranen Motorsport
  • Epic Racing

Victorious Vietoris Secures Monza Finale Victory.

Christian Vietoris ensured that the Racing Engineering team had something to celebrate as he secured the honours in the final race of the 2011 GP2 Series at Monza, leading home Fabio Leimer (Rapax) and Jules Bianchi (Lotus ART) after surviving race long pressure from the duo.

For Vietoris, the victory was secured at the start, as both Bianchi and Leimer struggled to get away from the line; the German went between the two of them to lead before the first corner, while Adam Carroll (Super Nova Racing) had to settle for fourth after trying to move ahead of the duo before running out of track.

Behind the lead four, chaos ensued as Charles Pic (Barwa Addax Team) ran into the back of Champion Romain Grosjean (Dams) before running into the side of Luca Filippi (Scuderia Coloni), before slowing to a halt just after the chicane. Grosjean lost two laps as the team fitted a new rear wing while Filippi continued in his hunt for second in the Championship, just behind the top four were the hard charging duo of Sam Bird (iSport International) and Esteban Gutierrez (Lotus ART).

Filippi recovered one position on the next lap as he overtook Gutierrez while up at the front, Vietoris was under pressure from Leimer – but with the high speed Monza layout not favouring overtaking, the only way Leimer was going to get ahead was if Vietoris made a mistake.

Carroll wasn’t enjoying his race as he slipped behind Bird and Filippi in successive laps before leading a train of cars for the following ten laps.

As it stood – the battle for second overall saw Bianchi and Filippi equal on points but the Italian driver was using his local knowledge. With there being little chance of an overtake to help him gain a position, he waited for the gap to the drivers behind to grow and he then dropped back so he could put in a succession of fastest laps to secure the bonus Championship point to assist his quest for second overall.

When the chequered flag was dropped, Vietoris punched the air with delight having secured the victory by 0.7s from Leimer, while Bianchi, Bird and Filippi crossed the line nose to tail while a further seven seconds back was Gutierrez, who secured the final point.

The Championship battle had been decided at Spa, but the Vice Champion position was still to be filled and it went the way of Filippi by a point from Bianchi, while the teams’ honours went the way of Barwa Addax Team, ahead of Dams and Racing Engineering.

Monza GP2 Sprint Race Result:

Position

Driver

Team

1

Christian Vietoris

Racing Engineering

2

Fabio Leimer

Rapax

3

Jules Bianchi

Lotus ART

4

Sam Bird

iSport International

5

Luca Filippi

Scuderia Coloni

6

Esteban Gutierrez

Lotus ART

7

Dani Clos

Racing Engineering

8

Marcus Ericsson

iSport International

9

Luiz Razia

Caterham Team AirAsia

10

Pal Varhaug

Dams

11

Adam Carroll

Super Nova Racing

12

Alvaro Parente

Carlin

13

Giedo van der Garde

Barwa Addax Team

14

Stephane Richelmi

Trident Racing

15

Johnny Cecotto

Ocean Racing Technology

16

Rodolfo Gonzalez

Trident Racing

17

Josef Kral

Arden International

18

Max Chilton

Carlin

19

Jolyon Palmer

Arden International

20

Brendon Hartley

Ocean Racing Technology

21

Romain Grosjean

Dams

DNF

Davide Valsecchi

Caterham Team AirAsia

DNF

Charles Pic

Barwa Addax Team

DNF

Julian Leal

Rapax

DNF

Fairuz Fauzy

Super Nova Racing

DNS

Michael Herck

Scuderia Coloni

Monza sees Filippi Secure Home Victory.

Luca Filippi delighted the Monza crowd as he brought home his Scuderia Coloni car home first to secure a home victory for him and the team. Filippi, one of five drivers in contention for the Vice Champion position blew past Pole sitter Charles Pic (Barwa Addax Team) to lead home the Frenchman and the 2011 GP2 Champion, Romain Grosjean (Dams).

Filippi made the best start as the lights went out as Pic was unable to take advantage of the clean side of the grid, and he had to fend off the attentions of Alvaro Parente (Carlin), Grosjean, Adam Carroll (Super Nova Racing) and Fabio Leimer (Rapax) as they made their way down to the first chicane.

The Italian driver saw setting the pace as he set a string of fastest laps, knowing that the best way to secure a home victory was to open up as big a gap as possible, while Pic continued to look in his mirrors as a train of GP2 rivals built up behind him.

Pic, Grosjean, Carroll, Leimer and Sam Bird (iSport International) all pitted together on lap twelve, and the fast recovering Bird made up another two positions during the pit stops, and this became three when Parente was given a drive through penalty for an unsafe release.

Two laps later and Filippi pitted to cover the earlier stops and he came out ahead of his rivals. He soon set about chasing down the fastest lap of the race to help with his quest of securing the Vice Champion honours and with five laps remaining, he secured the fastest lap of the race, despite the best efforts of Grosjean behind.

When the flag was dropped to mark the end of the race, the grandstand erupted with joy as they celebrated a home victory for Filippi, his first home victory in GP2. Pic held off Grosjean by 0.6s at the flag to secure second. Bird made the most of his race as he recovered from ninth to fourth. Carroll finished fifth, ahead of Christian Vietoris (Racing Engineering), Leimer and Jules Bianchi (Lotus ART) – the latter securing Pole Position for tomorrow’s sprint race ahead of the Vice Champion showdown.

Four drivers head into the final race of the season with a chance of finishing second behind Champion Grosjean. Pic leads the way with 52 points, with Filippi a single point behind. Bianchi and Giedo van der Garde (Barwa Addax Team) head into the sprint race tomorrow two points behind Filippi.

Barwa Addax Team has all but wrapped up the honours in the Teams’ Championship as they sit on 101 points to the 89 points of Dams.

Monza GP2 Feature Race Result:

Position

Driver

Team

1

Luca Filippi

Scuderia Coloni

2

Charles Pic

Barwa Addax Team

3

Romain Grosjean

Dams

4

Sam Bird

iSport International

5

Adam Carroll

Super Nova Racing

6

Christian Vietoris

Racing Engineering

7

Fabio Leimer

Rapax

8

Jules Bianchi

Lotus ART

9

Esteban Gutierrez

Lotus ART

10

Luiz Razia

Caterham Team AirAsia

11

Pal Varhaug

Dams

12

Alvaro Parente

Carlin

13

Dani Clos

Racing Engineering

14

Marcus Ericsson

iSport International

15

Stephane Richelmi

Trident Racing

16

Julian Leal

Rapax

17

Johnny Cecotto

Ocean Racing Technology

18

Fairuz Fauzy

Super Nova Racing

19

Rodolfo Gonzalez

Trident Racing

20

Davide Valsecchi

Caterham Team AirAsia

21

Giedo van der Garde

Barwa Addax Team

22

Brendon Hartley

Ocean Racing Technology

DNF

Max Chilton

Carlin

DNF

Josef Kral

Arden International

DNF

Jolyon Palmer

Arden International

DNF

Michael Herck

Scuderia Coloni

Pic on Pole for 2011 GP2 Vice Champion.

Charles Pic (Barwa Addax Team) has boosted his chances of finishing the 2011 GP2 Series as the Vice Champion after securing his third Pole Position of the season, having seen off the attentions of local hero and fellow Vice Champion contender Luca Filippi (Scuderia Coloni) while Fabio Leimer (Rapax) rounded out the top three after a scorching qualifying session at Monza.

Pic topped the final qualifying session of the season with a 1:32.349 to secure Pole Position, a time which he set after just seven minutes. At the flag, nineteen drivers were within a second of Pic’s time but none of them could better the time set early into the session.

Having finished P2 in the previous three qualifying sessions, Filippi was determined to not finish second at Monza and he was soon on top of the times. His time was soon beaten by Leimer and then newly crowned Champion Romain Grosjean (Dams) but the Italian wasn’t going to give in and soon set a time which looked good enough for pole… Pic, however, had other ideas.

Once Pic was back on top, it appeared that Filippi was going to bounce back on his next flying lap – that was until Esteban Gutierrez (Lotus ART) binned it at the Ascari complex and went into the barrier backwards, the fight was over.

Filippi was forced to back off due to the Gutierrez incident and that was that. Grosjean, Leimer and the returning Alvaro Parente (Carlin) all went wide as the searched for that extra bit of speed and time during the closing minutes but the damage had been done and Pic was able to celebrate.

Parente and Grosjean completed the Monza qualifying top five, while Dani Clos (Racing Engineering), Christian Vietoris (Racing Engineering), Adam Carroll (Super Nova Racing), Sam Bird (iSport International) and Max Chilton (Carlin) completed the top ten.

GP2 Vice Champion contenders Giedo van der Garde (Barwa Addax Team) and Jules Bianchi (Lotus ART) both face uphill tasks after they were only able to finish nineteenth and twentieth fastest at Monza.

All of this will mean that the final GP2 feature race of the 2011 campaign will be a corker – with two contenders for Vice Champion up at the front while the other two starting back on row ten – the race is set up for fireworks.

GP2 Monza Qualifying Result:

Position

Driver

Team

1

Charles Pic

Barwa Addax Team

2

Luca Filippi

Scuderia Coloni

3

Fabio Leimer

Rapax

4

Alvaro Parente

Carlin

5

Romain Grosjean

Dams

6

Dani Clos

Racing Engineering

7

Christian Vietoris

Racing Engineering

8

Adam Carroll

Super Nova Racing

9

Sam Bird

iSport International

10

Max Chilton

Carlin

11

Jolyon Palmer

Arden International

12

Josef Kral

Arden International

13

Michael Herck

Scuderia Coloni

14

Davide Valsecchi

Caterham Team AirAsia

15

Marcus Ericsson

iSport International

16

Rodolfo Gonzalez

Trident Racing

17

Brendon Hartley

Ocean Racing Technology

18

Luiz Razia

Caterham Team AirAsia

19

Jules Bianchi

Lotus ART

20

Giedo van der Garde

Barwa Addax Team

21

Fairuz Fauzy

Super Nova Racing

22

Johnny Cecotto

Ocean Racing Technology

23

Julian Leal

Rapax

24

Stephane Richelmi

Trident Racing

25

Esteban Gutierrez

Lotus ART

26

Pal Varhaug

Dams

Haryanto Secures Maiden Auto GP Victory.

The second race at Valencia for Auto GP has crowned a new race winner in the short history of the series; GP3 race winner Rio Haryanto secured the victory at the wheel of his Dams car to record a dominant victory. The Indonesian driver has already graced the podium, at Brno in the Czech Republic and the Spanish victory continued to show his upwards improvements during the season.

Lining up third on the grid after Saturday’s opening race, where he finished sixth, Haryanto made a quick start and moved straight into second place, ahead of Samuele Buttarelli in the TP Formula car and slotted into second behind Pole Sitter Adam Carroll in his Campos Racing car.

Haryanto showed that he was quicker than Carroll and very quickly, he got onto the tail of the British driver and started to put him under pressure. Carroll tried to keep the rapid Indonesian driver behind him but on the fifth lap, he left a gap at turn two which Haryanto slipped into and completed the pass. From there on, he drove away and to put the icing on the cake, he set the races fastest lap on lap six.

A delighted Haryanto said about his win after the race: “I’m really happy of this first Auto GP win. I got very close to that in Brno and then it faded away, so today when I saw the chance I did all I could to take it. I had a great start and I managed to pass Buttarelli, and from then on I knew that the only chance I had was putting pressure on Adam, hoping for a mistake or for some room in a corner sooner or later. I also knew that it had to happen early in the race because then tyre wear would have made things more difficult. Luckily the ‘plan’ came together quite early, and from then on things were easier as my pace was really good. I want to say thanks to DAMS, they did a great job.”

Behind the Asian driver, Carroll was busy keeping his eyes on his mirrors as Buttarelli was closing up on him rather fast. He was visibly quicker than Carroll and he sat on his tail for the rest of the race duration and on occasions, showed his nose but never really developed a proper overtaking opportunity.

Ultimately, Carroll resisted the attacks and led Buttarelli home, with a gap of 0.8s between the two of them at the chequered flag. Their teams, Campos Racing and TP Formula were able to celebrate their fifth and fourth podiums of the season respectively.

Second place finisher Carroll said afterwards: “My start was really good, and for a while I thought that the win was in my reach. Then, already on lap two, I realized that Rio was much quicker than me and that keeping him behind would have been tough. Then he passed me and flew away, after some changes we did on the set-up I just didn’t have the pace to follow him. My next task was keeping Buttarelli at bay and again it wasn’t easy, because on a track like this it’s easy to overdrive if the car is not doing what you’re expecting. Anyway I did it, and clinching a podium finish in my team’s home race feels really good.”

Buttarelli, the third place finisher said after the race: “It was a tough race as I pushed from flag to flag. I didn’t have a good start and Haryanto passed me, but I wanted to get my second place back so I sticked to Carroll’s tail very early into the race. I tried all I could, but Adam was really good at defending his lines and on the other side I was losing a lot of downforce everytime I got close to him, stressing my front tyres too much. It’s a pity because my pace was quicker than his, even if I have to say that getting Rio would have been difficult today. Anyway I can be happy with this third pace; it’s a good result considering that I started my weekend with that penalty from Oschersleben.”

Coming home fourth was Adrien Tambay in the second Campos Racing car – this gave team owner Adrian Campos reason to celebrate in his teams’ home race – after making a bad start, he was able to retain fourth and spent the whole race defending it from Fabrizio Crestani and Fabio Onidi.

The two Lazarus drivers looked quicker than Tambay but were never able to make their move to gain a position as the Valencia track doesn’t offer many overtaking opportunities. Onidi, however, was able to complete a great move on Adrian Campos Jnr on lap nine at the final corner with an outbraking manoeuvre.

Coming home seventh was GP2 vice Champion contender Luca Filippi. The Italian had started down in twelfth but moved up to P7 quickly, thanks in part to a great start while Kevin Ceccon stretched his Championship advantage after coming home eighth and securing the final Championship point. Ceccon has also wrapped up the Under 21 Championship, having opened up a big enough margin over Giovanni Venturini. The reward for this success is a free GP2 test, while he has to wait until the visit to the Tuscan circuit of Mugello to find out his overall drivers’ Championship position.

Dams secured a double race win in Valencia, as their drivers Haryanto and Afanasiev recorded twenty nine and twenty six points respectively. This means that Haryanto receives 60,000E prize money and Afanasiev 25,000E while Onidi leaves Spain with 15,000E for his twenty two points.

Auto GP, Valencia Race 2 Results:

Position

Driver

Team

1

Rio Haryanto

Dams

2

Adam Carroll

Campos Racing

3

Samuele Buttarelli

TP Formula

4

Adrien Tambey

Campos Racing

5

Fabrizio Crestani

Lazarus

6

Fabio Onidi

Lazarus

7

Luca Filippi

Super Nova Racing

8

Kevin Ceccon

Ombra Racing

9

Giovanni Venturini

Griffitz Durango

10

Pasquale Di Sabatino

TP Formula

11

Daniel De Jong

MP Motorsport

12

Giuseppe Cipriani

Griffitz Durango

13

Francesco Dracone

Ombra Racing

14

Sergei Afansiev

Dams

15

Adrian Campos-Jnr

Campos Racing

Afanasiev Momentum Continues with Lights – to – flag Valencia Victory.

Sergei Afanasiev continued his recent good form by securing his third victory of the season during the first race of the weekend at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit.  The Dams driver drove the perfect race from Pole Position to close the gap to Championship leader, Kevin Ceccon, who was only able to come home third. Splitting them was Fabio Onidi, who picked up his second podium finish of the season.

Thanks to his start, Russian Afanasiev had already opened a slight gap as the field headed into turn one and during the next few corners, that gap continued to open as the rest of the field squabbled for track position.

Onidi, from fifth position on the grid soon found himself up into second, having overtaken Adam Carroll, Ceccon and Adrien Tambay – Carroll and Ceccon followed the Lazarus driver while Tambay paid the price for his bad start as he tumbled down the order, and soon found himself ninth, with Rio Haryanto and Giovanni Venturini getting ahead of Tambay.

At the pit stops, the field was mixed up even more, thanks in part due to mistakes being made. Lap four saw the first pit stops being made and Ceccon, Haryanto, Tambay, Samuele Buttarelli and Luca Filippi.

The tyre change brought bad luck to Filippi and the Super Nova team – a lengthy pit stop due to problems with mounting his right rear tyre saw the GP2 race winner drop down to last place while Filippi’s GP2 rival, Carroll, dropped down from third to ninth after problems with his stop.

Lap six saw Onidi make his stop and the Lazarus pit crew pulled off the perfect pit stop, which allowed the Italian driver the chance to close on up Afanasiev. Onidi closed right up on the Russian for a couple of laps as he was held up by Giuseppe Cipriani for a couple of laps.

After Afanasiev made his pit stop, he was right on the tail of Francesco Dracone and he had to fight his way past, this giving the chasing Onidi the chance to cut the gap down to 0.7s.

Once the duo had moved ahead of Dracone, the Dams driver drove away from his Lazarus rival and he secured victory by 4s, and with it he became the first three time winner of the 2011 Auto GP season.

Afanasiev said afterwards: “Being on the highest step of the podium again is great, and I really have to say thanks to DAMS for that. With rain disturbing us yesterday during the Free Practice, we didn’t have much time to try different solutions, and we didn’t do any test here during the season while others did. So, giving me such a quick car they did an incredible job. The race wasn’t easy, the hot weather made it physically demanding and I had some tough moments, especially at the pit-stop and immediately after with Dracone slowing me down. Anyway he was fair and everything went in the right way. I know that now I’m really close to the Series lead, but I want to wait for tomorrow before doing the maths”.

Second Place finisher Onidi said about his race: “I’m really happy of this result. This year I had been on podium just once, winning in Monza, and the rest of the season was quite unlucky, with the injury in Donington as the lowest point. Today everything went fine right from the start, I had a very good pace and if it wasn’t for the slow laps behind Cipriani maybe I could have passed Sergei when he pitted. Anyway I’m happy with 2nd, being on podium again in Race 1 is a sweet feeling”.

Crossing the line third and completing the podium finishers was Ceccon – he spent the final few laps defending his position from Fabrizio Crestani and Haryanto, but the track layout didn’t provide many opportunities and they ultimately came home fourth and fifth.

Championship leader Ceccon said after his race: “Another podium is a very good result, especially looking to Filippi’s result. I know that Sergei is a bit closer now, but my balance is very good today. At the start I wasn’t perfect but I was third, before getting surprised by Fabio’s braking in Turn 1 and getting passed by Carroll. Anyway my team did maybe the best pit-stop of the season and brought me back to third, and from then on I just had to watch the mirrors to keep Crestani at bay. My read tyres got worn early, but Valencia is a track were passing is difficult, so I could keep my position easily”.

Rounding out the top six was Tambay, who recovered from his awful start to finish ahead of Buttarelli. Having set the fifth fastest time of the session, a penalty from Oschersleben saw him relegated to tenth on the grid but he recovered to seventh and a front row start for tomorrow’s race.

Securing himself pole position was Carroll, after his pit stop issue denied him the chance of a better result. Rounding out the top ten were Adrian Campos-Jnr and Venturini, the latter after his pit stop issue.

Auto GP, Valencia Race One Result:

Position

Driver

Team

1

Sergei Afanasiev

Dams

2

Fabio Onidi

Lazarus

3

Kevin Ceccon

Ombra Racing

4

Fabrizio Crestani

Lazarus

5

Rio Haryanto

Dams

6

Adrien Tambey

Campos Racing

7

Samuele Buttarelli

TP Formula

8

Adam Carroll

Campos Racing

9

Adrian Campos-Jnr

Campos Racing

10

Giovanni Venturini

Griffitz Durango

11

Pasquale Di Sabatino

TP Formula

12

Luca Filippi

Super Nova Racing

13

Daniel De Jong

MP Motorsport

14

Francesco Dracone

Ombra Racing

15

Giuseppe Cipriani

Griffitz Durango

Afanasiev Momentum carries him to Valencia Pole Position.

Sergei Afanasiev (Dams) will start from Pole Position for the first of two Valencia races this weekend for the Auto GP Series.

Russian Afanasiev posted a best time of 1m23.436s to secure Pole Position during the final stages of the session. Qualifying saw the top three drivers, Afanasiev, Kevin Ceccon (Ombra Racing) and Adrien Tambay (Campos Racing) all within a tenth of a second, while the top twelve drivers on the grid were covered by eight tenths of a second.

Dams entrant Afanasiev has kept up the momentum he generated last time out at Oschersleben and has secured himself the best opportunity to eat into the Championship advantage which Ceccon has built up.

Pole Sitter Afanasiev said after qualifying: “It was a really hard-fought session, and taking pole when the battle is so hot makes it even better. The summer break was long and I had no testing in the meantime, so when I got back in the car I feared that some of the feeling I had could be lost. Anyway this wasn’t the case at all, after just a few laps I was back into the ‘Oschersleben mood’ and could push really hard. I really want to say thanks to DAMS for giving me such a good car, they know what I want and they always deliver a top job, so they deserve to be praised.”

Lining up alongside the Russian is Ceccon and the Italian driver won’t make it easy for his Championship rivals. Having caused the first of two red flags in the session, he then found the perfect feeling for his car and at the end of qualifying; he was just 0.003s behind Afanasiev, on a 1m23.466s.

The second row of the grid is an all Campos Racing affair, with Tambey ahead of the returning Adam Carroll. Tambay has been all set for Pole Position with five minutes of the session remaining and his 1m23.513s was quick enough to keep Carroll behind him.

Row three will see Samuele Buttarelli (TP Formula) – who is back on form after another Friday where he had issues with the car – and alongside him is Fabio Onidi (Lazuras). Onidi has fully recovered from his hand injury, sustained at Donington Park but he suffered with a lap of grip, as the temperatures are lower today than yesterday.

His Lazuras team-mate, Fabrizio Crestani also suffered from the same problem and will line up seventh, with the returning GP2 race winner, Luca Filippi, starting eighth for Super Nova Racing. He could only watch his times from yesterday on old tyres.

Completing the top ten are Rio Haryanto (Dams) and Giovanni Venturini (Griffitz Durango).

Auto GP Valencia, Qualifying Results:

Position

Driver

Team

1

Sergei Afansiev

Dams

2

Kevin Ceccon

Ombra Racing

3

Adrien Tambey

Campos Racing

4

Adam Carroll

Campos Racing

5

Samuele Buttarelli

TP Formula

6

Fabio Onidi

Lazarus

7

Fabrizio Crestani

Lazarus

8

Luca Filippi

Super Nova Racing

9

Rio Haryanto

Dams

10

Giovanni Venturini

Griffitz Durango

11

Pasquale Di Sabatino

TP Formula

12

Adrian Campos-Jnr

Campos Racing

13

Daniel De Jong

MP Motorsport

14

Francesco Dracone

Ombra Racing

15

Giuseppe Cipriani

Griffitz Durango

GP2 Champion Grosjean Reflects on his Championship Success.

Romain Grosjean Celebrates his GP2 Title Success.

The feature race at Spa-Francorchamps saw the destination of the 2011 GP2 Drivers’ Title decided. Heading into the weekend, Romain Grosjean had a twenty five point advantage over his nearest rival, Giedo van der Garde of Barwa Addax Team.

Qualifying saw Grosjean grab the upper hand as he finished eight fastest while van der Garde could only manage the eleventh fastest time. It then played into the hands of the Frenchman even more when van der Garde was pushed off the track at La Source on the opening lap.

Bringing the car home third amid the chaos meant that Grosjean became the seventh Champion in GP2, and he returned his team, Dams, to the top of the Championship.

Speaking about how it feels to finally hear ‘Romain Grosjean, 2011 GP2 Champion’, he said: “Finally! It’s just fantastic. We’ve had a really hard season with such a high level of drivers and teams. I think that professionally and personally, this has been a very important season. The team Dams has been really open-minded to listen to me and my suggestions. They worked really hard. They work very hard I can tell you. We made some mistakes. Sometime they made them, other times I made them. That’s normal in a season. But at the end of the day, we managed to get everything right in the last four races. It’s true that I have had a bit of luck as well, but in every championship, you need to get that as well to make the difference. Today I am very pleased. I can see that the team is very emotional and that’s important for a driver to feel that everyone is behind him. It has been a very special season…”

Grosjean headed into the season with no expectations from his management company but he personally wanted to secure the title as well as return Dams to the pinnacle of single seater racing, as he explains: “I want to say that at the beginning of the season, my management did not tell me to win the Series. I’m a bit older than some of the drivers and I have more experience so my personal goal was to grab the title. But I knew also that I wanted to push Dams and help them to get back at the top. What they were missing when we started working together is not missing anymore. And I think they are the strongest team of the Series this season. I am proud of what we have accomplished. I wanted this title very much because it was missing in my career. Now it’s in the pocket. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Grosjean headed into the 2011 GP2 Main Series campaign on the back of his second GP2 Asia crown. This meant that the others saw him as the driver to beat, both due to him being Asia Series Champion plus he has that bit more experience compared to the rest of the field.

Did he feel any pressure? “Honestly, I don’t like it when I’m an outsider. But if you watch the results from last season in GP2, Barwa Addax, ART and iSport were stronger than Dams. But this year with the new car and the new Pirelli tyres, we worked very hard. I have to say that we were completely lost in Abu Dhabi when the GP2 Asia season opened at the beginning of the year. Everyone thought we were hiding our true potential when we were P22 in the last test session before the season started. And then, we realised that we needed to just keep working and start again from the beginning and we took pole position. And then the car started to work again. We were strong contenders, but we were also a team that needed to prove that they were able to get back to the top as they were a few years ago.”

Before the success story of 2011, the previous two seasons were tough going for Grosjean – as he explains: “I think my career has been smooth until 2009. Everything was perfect. I was always in the right team, at the right place and at the right time. I went to SG Formula and became Formula Renault 2.0 Champion. I went then to ART in Formula 3 and became Champion. Then I stayed with the team in GP2 Asia Series and again, I became Champion. Then the first year of GP2 was really great. I was P4 at the end of the season which was a fantastic result. I went to Formula One then and unfortunately it was at the wrong time, in the wrong place. But it has been important in my career and has definitely helped me get stronger. I realised after that I had a life outside Formula One. It has truly helped me enjoy the life in the paddock as well. Everyone can see that I’m smiling more. It’s because I have less pressure. I still work very hard and seriously, but I put less pressure on my shoulders. That’s the way I’m working now. I like to be relaxed. I like to smile a lot before going in the car. I make jokes even on the grid and then I can still manage to focus when it counts.”

Before the start of the main series down in Turkey, the GP2 Series had a two race weekend Asia series – of which the second round took place at Imola. Grosjean feels that this was one point when he felt he could be crowned Champion in GP2.

Speaking about that and the season as a whole, Grosjean said: “I think Imola was important. We went to a track that nobody knew. We knew that it would give a good indication of what to expect in the GP2 Series later this season. And we were very strong. We took pole and won the first race. And then we went to Turkey, took pole again and won again. From then on, we knew we had a good pace, a good set-up and that we could improve on every race track. Sometimes we did struggle a little because we were missing some speed, but the set-up was still good everywhere. That’s what you have to feel to become champion. At the start of the season, there were some ups and downs: we made a few mistakes which happens in a season. But the last four races were very good and that helped us build a gap in the standings. The summer was long as well because we were 25 points ahead and everyone kept on telling me that I was going to be champion in Spa. I kept on telling them to relax a bit (He laughs). And of course, you saw what happened in qualifying yesterday… It was a tough way to start the weekend. But I got P3 today and it was enough to become Champion with Dams.”

Was there one victory from the five he had recorded this season which meant more to him than any others?

“I think the one from Silverstone was quite important,” reflects Grosjean. “Everybody said that I had made a big mistake and that I was crazy in Valencia. I made one, I completely agree. That’s it. I got a ten grid place penalty and I went to Silverstone.  It was tough, but during that race I was really patient. I made some nice overtaking manoeuvres at the end of the race especially on Giedo which was important for the title race and then on Dani. It was a strong win. And I think from then on, we were capable to score in both races and I showed that the mistake I made in Valencia did not mean that the 2009 Romain Grosjean was back. It was just some mistake that drivers do sometimes.”

What are his thoughts on the fact which shows that nearly all GP2 Champions moving into Formula 1?

“There is no rule unfortunately!” jokes the Frenchman. “I want to go back to Formula One, of course, but at the moment nothing has been decided. My management, LRGP or the team Dams have been intelligent because they knew that in 2009 after the third race of the season, I was only thinking about F1. This year, I did not want to make the same mistake so I kept my focus on GP2 exclusively. I have been to the F1 paddock as little as possible to focus here. Now that we are champions, I will have a look at what is going on upstairs, but at the moment, my main concern is to find a good contract for 2012 and nothing else. At least we still have a few months to think about it. Hopefully I can get a good seat in good conditions.”

Does Grosjean feel that racing in GP2 has prepared him for the next level of his racing career?

“This season has been watched closely by the F1 paddock because of the new tyres and the new car. Drivers have to think more about what they are doing in the car. You need to manage everything very well. We’ve had some tough races. Some of them were dry/wet/dry and some were really crazy races. Having won this title in difficult conditions was important and it has been seen by the big boss…hopefully!” said Grosjean.

Grosjean had raced all three generation GP2 cars. What, in his opinion, makes the latest car so special compared to the others?

“The first generation car had less power and was easy to drive. You didn’t have to think about anything. You just had to push with every lap. The second generation car was a bit more difficult. The 2009 season started out good, but like I said, I was thinking of the next step prematurely. I was not focused. I like the new generation car a lot. It is much more stable and I like as well the way the Pirelli tyres are working through the race. During the races, the drivers have to really work on their driving style and on the preparation with the team.”

Grosjean will aim to score a double win at Monza to round out this season, as that is the final opportunity for him to do so, as he couldn’t do it at Spa having finished third in race one.

He finished by saying: “That would be really nice. First, we have another race tomorrow. I really want to score more points for the team. We are second in the teams’ standings which is not that bad considering that there’s only one driver who has scored points so far this season. We need to keep scoring points and it’s true that I would like to score a double-win this season. Since it’s not going to be achievable in Spa, there’s only Monza left! It would be nice to finish on a win, but first of all we will try to score points.”

Picture Credit: Andrew Ferraro/GP2 Media Service