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.

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DAMS and Valsecchi on Sepang Pole

Davide Valsecchi

Sepang has seen the 2011 Champions DAMS continue where they left off as Davide Valsecchi secured Pole Position for the opening race of the season.

Valsecchi, who was shown plenty of speed throughout the winter tests backed up his pre season form by setting his benchmark time early in the session and wasn’t beaten throughout the remainder of the qualifying session.

Valsecchi said about his pole position: “First of all, I’d like to thank my engineers and mechanics who have given me such a well-prepared car. I’m very happy for them – and also for myself – but the job isn’t done yet as we’ll have to confirm our performance in the race. In any case, we’ve got off to a great start.”

Team-mate to Valsecchi at DAMS is the 2011 British Formula 3 Champion, Brazilian driver Felipe Nasr. He gave the French outfit more reason to smile after qualifying tenth for his debut GP2 race. He will line up ninth after another driver recieved a grid penalty.

Nasr added: “My tenth place isn’t too bad but I’d have liked to do a bit better. This being said it’s my first race in GP2 and I’d like to thank my team for all the help they’ve given me. I’ll do my best to give them a good result this weekend.”

The qualifying performances show that the team will be right in the thick of the Championship battle, and with the blend of experience and youth, it sets the team up well for a successful 2012 season.

DAMS CEO, Jean-Paul Driot added: “Obviously we all feel very satisfied not only because of the pole position, but also because of the overall result of our two drivers. I’d like to congratulate them and the whole team who have laid down a marker right at the start of the season.”

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

Rossi to Race for Caterham Team AirAsia in Abu Dhabi Finale.

Caterham Team AirAsia has announced that American racer Alexander Rossi will race for the team during the Abu Dhabi GP2 Finale, one of the support races for the penultimate round of the 2011 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Rossi will also take part in the Formula One young drivers test for Team Lotus following on from the Grand Prix, which takes place over the 12/13 November. The three day test takes place over the 15/17 November and Rossi, who showed impressive speed during the recent GP2 test at Barcelona, will get a whole day in the car.

The American racer, who spent the 2011 campaign racing in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, is looking forward to competing at Abu Dhabi, a circuit which impresses him: “The Yas Marina circuit is really pretty impressive. The track itself has some quite slow corners and not a great deal of overtaking opportunities, but it seems to combine a road course with a circuit course. In the first two sectors you can be quite brave with what you’re doing but in the marina section there’s very little run-off area as the walls are really close, so you have to restrain yourself somewhat. Every lap requires two different driving styles and that in itself makes it fun and very interesting to race for both the drivers and the engineers. ”

Speaking about his opportunity to test the Team Lotus Formula One car, he explains what his intentions are, as well as what he is aiming for in the GP2 races: “I am very excited to finally announce I will be competing in Abu Dhabi with Caterham Team AirAsia and will have the chance to put more F1 miles on my CV with Team Lotus. After the positive Gp2 tests in Jerez and Barcelona I feel we have a good chance of a strong result in the GP2 races and I will definitely be going into the weekend fully focused and motivated for a race win – looking at the team’s past results I see no reason why we can’t achieve that. For the F1 test I will be looking to learn as much as possible, do the best job I can and soak up every minute, in and out of the car.”

Riad Asmat, Caterham Team AirAsia and Team Lotus Team Principal said about the Rossi announcement:  “We are very excited to have Alexander Rossi back onboard for the Abu Dhabi GP2 race and the subsequent F1 test. He worked very well with the GP2 team during the tests in Spain and it will be great to continue that working relationship in addition to giving him more exposure to the F1 environment with Team Lotus. He has shown maturity and confidence on track so the decision to put him in the car for the GP2 Finale was a simple one to make and we want to give him the chance to experience the pressure of an F1 environment so the young driver test is the natural place to give him that chance. We are all looking forward to both events and I am sure he will perform to the best of his ability whenever he is on track.”

Phill Spencer, Caterham Team AirAsia Team Manager is hoping that Rossi can give the team a positive end to their maiden season in GP2, which saw them win in Monaco with Davide Valsecchi:  “I am very happy Alexander will be joining our GP2 team again in Abu Dhabi. He has shown great potential in the car and built up a good rapport with the team and especially his engineer during the post season tests. We have come a long way since the beginning of this year, it has been a roller coaster season with some highs and lows but I feel confident that with Alexander we can finish 2011 on a positive note.”

Caterham Team AirAsia Aim for Monza Rewards as Maiden GP2 Campaign Comes to an End.

Monza in Italy marks the conclusion of the 2011 GP2 Series campaign and for Caterham Team AirAsia, their maiden season in the category has been one of highs and lows.

They head to Monza hoping for a final high in the season and for a change in luck, as the last few race weekends have brought mostly back luck to the team.

Pirelli have provided the Hard Compound tyre for this weekend, due to the high speeds and heavy braking of the parkland Monza circuit.

Heading to Italy and Monza, Phill Spencer is in optimistic mood ahead of the final two races of the season.

He said: “I am optimistic. We have had a bit of a bad run recently but both drivers have had good results here so there is no reason why the drivers cannot do well here, but we will find out when the cars turn a wheel here in free practice tomorrow. The engineers are experienced and have been here many times in the past so they know what they are doing. I am a little anxious but I am happy to be here. The first time I came to this circuit was in 1979 and not much has changed really, just a little at the first chicane. With the long straights and monster braking, drivers like it. The high speed makes it an exciting track to drive but it is the braking that will make up all the time here.”

The team are currently sitting sixth in the teams’ Championship but having secured a victory in their debut season as well as a Pole Position, it has been a good season all round.

Davide Valsecchi, who brought the team their first victory at Monaco lives close to the Italian circuit said about the upcoming race weekend: “It’s an incredibly good feeling being here this week. Monza is close to home so I have friends and supporters with me which is really nice. It is a lot of fun racing here, there are long straights, strong brake points and lots of chances to overtake, so I hope the team and I can qualify well and have a good weekend from the front. I hope the hard tyres will not be a problem. We had a good, competitive result when we used them in Barcelona, so considering this and the good weather forecast I am feeling positive. The team always do a good job I want to make a faultless race so we can finish the season well.”

Luiz Razia has previous experience of winning at Monza, as he secured the Sprint Race honours in 2009, for rival team Scuderia Coloni.

He said about the Monza race weekend:  “It is a pleasure to be here in Monza! I won the sprint race here in 2009 with Di Grassi and Hulkenburg behind me which was a great feeling. It is good fun to be on the track where the hard tyres, low downforce and high speeds mean you are on the edge all the time. The atmosphere is always great here too. Since Silverstone we’ve had very wet, difficult conditions but hopefully here will be dry so we can work through the weekend and have a good consistent weekend. If the weather is stable of course everyone else is in the same situation, so competition will as always be tough but that’s good. I really like the Ascari chicane and Parabolica, the change of direction through these are very quick. We used the hard compound tyres in Barcelona and we had a good race, our aim here is to work on the qualifying so we can start the weekend in a strong position.”

Humphrey Corbett is hoping for a stress free end to the season after the last few rounds, which have been stressful for all concerned.

He said: “I’m looking forward to this weekend. There’s no chance of rain at the moment and it would be nice to have a stress free weekend unlike we have had in the past few races. We have got two drivers that have done very well here, we have a good set-up and will be using the hard tyres which we like so we are confident of a good result. To have a good chance at doing well here you need good braking, good stability under braking, low downforce and to be reasonably good over kerbs. I am sure both drivers will go for it this weekend. We have nothing to lose but we can climb up the championship so let’s go for it!”

GP2 Monza Weekend Schedule:

Friday, 9 September:

11.55 – 12.25: Free Practice
15.55 – 16.25: Qualifying

Saturday, 10 September:

15.25: Pit Lane Opens
15:30: Pit Lane Closes/Grid
15.40: GP2 Feature Race. (30 Laps/60 Minutes)

Sunday, 11 September:

10.15: Pit Lane Opens
10.20: Pit Lane Closes/Grid
10.30: GP2 Sprint Race (21 Laps/45 Minutes)

Sprint Race Rounds Off Disappointing Spa Visit for Caterham Team AirAsia.

Luiz Razia leads a chain of cars at Spa.

Caterham Team AirAsia rounded off the penultimate weekend of their debut GP2 season with a tenth place finish for Davide Valsecchi, who had worked his way up from twenty fifth on the grid the previous day.

Valsecchi had found a lot of speed on the long straights of the Ardennes Forest circuit but wasn’t able to overtake anyone and thus ended up outside of the points paying positions.

The Italian is now looking ahead to finishing the season off at home, at Monza after another race where he failed to score points: “It was another difficult race for me today. I was fighting all the time, the car was very fast and I was gaining time in the straights but then losing it again in the corners, it was a bit frustrating. I was able to defend my position, but once again we go home with no points. I am of course looking forward to racing in Monza in my home country – I love the circuit and hope we can have a much better time there to finish the season.”

Team-mate Luiz Razia made a good start and made a place up on the opening lap before working his way up the field during the early stages to run a solid fourteenth position. Following the Safety Car period, he moved ahead of Ericsson before seeing his race end early after crashing out.

After another long race weekend, Razia is hoping to go out with a positive performance at Monza:  “I made a very solid start and my car felt good. I overtook a few people at the beginning and was moving forward all the time. The safety car was deployed and when it came in I overtook Ericsson but then as I braked into turn one I was hit from behind and lost control of the car completely. It was a big shame. I was happy with the car and the balance and even though I had a bit of tyre degradation it was not as much as the cars around me. This weekend and this season has been long – I hope we can go to the last race of the season in Monza and finish 2011 with a positive performance.”

Phill Spencer describes the Spa weekend as ‘Difficult’ as there has been something missing all weekend, as he explains: “It has been a very difficult weekend for us, we have been missing something. Davide said he had a good car but unfortunately today he could not pass anyone. On the other hand Luiz was able to make lots of moves on other cars, but again he got pushed off and ended his race early, which is such a shame as he was doing well. It has been a long hard season getting the team up and running, but we will keep on smiling, move on to Monza and hope we can have a better race there in couple of week’s time.”

Humphrey Corbett added:  “We have had problems this weekend and come away no points. Unfortunately we just couldn’t get our drivers up there. Once again one of our drivers was knocked out by somebody else, which is very sad – I feel sorry for Luiz as he has been very unlucky here. Davide found it difficult to overtake today so we have a bit of work to do with him to find out why. He started tenth and finished tenth but we were hoping for a little bit more so we are coming away a little disappointed. But we will do our normal turn around and hope for better performances in Monza.”

The final round of the 2011 GP2 Series takes place at Monza over the 9/10/11 September.

Picture Credit: Alastair Staley/GP2 Media Service

Difficult Qualifying Leaves an Uphill Task for Caterham Team AirAsia.

Luiz Razia during Qualifying ahead of the Spa GP2 Feature Race.

After the four week summer break and the announcement that Caterham Team AirAsia have a new CEO in the shape or Riad Asmat, the penultimate round of the 2011 season got underway at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.

As is the norm at the Ardennes Forest circuit, the weather conditions played their part and the team saw their drivers, Luiz Razia and Davide Valsecchi struggle, with Razia finishing the best of the team’s drivers in twentieth.

Razia said about his qualifying session: “In the dry practice session this morning our car was quite good, but unfortunately the decisions we made for the wet session this afternoon did not work, as a team we did something wrong, so now we must analyse all the data and move on. We have had a roller coaster season, sometimes we have been very competitive and then other times we have struggled, but we are not far from the path. Small changes can sometimes make a big difference especially here at Spa which is a big track. Today’s qualifying positions say a lot but we can still have a good race tomorrow, we will fight very hard tomorrow to finish in the points.”

Team-mate Valsecchi had qualified twenty first but was then relegated to the back of the grid after setting his best time while the yellow flags were out.

Italian Valsecchi said after qualifying:  “It has been a difficult day for us. Unfortunately we missed something today and our set up just did not work well. The first few laps felt good and I was competitive but as the session progressed everyone improved and I could not. We will do our best to resolve our issue ready for the race tomorrow and hope I can take advantage of any situations take might come about during the race. We need the performance, if we can get that right I will try to get a good start and drive a smart race so we can finish in the points. It will be difficult, but not impossible!”

The team are hoping for more mixed conditions in tomorrow’s twenty five lap feature race and Phill Spencer hopes that the team can make progress up the order tomorrow.

He said: “We are all disappointed with our results today. We have looked through some data and have an idea where we went wrong. We used a similar set up to what we have used before in the rain, but unfortunately it didn’t seem to work at all well here, and to make matters worse Davide has been given a ten place grid penalty for setting a best sector time in a yellow section. Looking at the positives, in tricky conditions we have got two cars back in one piece so tomorrow we will just have to look at the weather conditions and make the necessary alterations and stay optimistic. You can make good progress here with a fast car so for sure all is not lost”

Echoing the words of Spencer is Humphrey Corbett, who added: “I am at a loss as to why both our cars are at the back, neither driver complained about the balance, a little under steer maybe but not to this degree. We have a few theories that might affect performance but we have got to look through all the data and hopefully learn from it. Unfortunately Davide also has a penalty for setting a best sector time when he shouldn’t have so he will now start from last place on the grid. I know both drivers are capable of putting it on pole, so we’ll just have to see what we can do tomorrow. We are very disheartened but as always we will try our best tomorrow. I hope we have a similar situation to Budapest when it rained early on in the race but started to dry, it mixes things up and I think this will be our only chance at getting both drivers up there tomorrow. The forecast is very inconsistent so if this is the case I think we can still salvage some points.”

Picture Credit: Drew Gibson/GP2 Media Service