GP2 Series from Magny-Cours, France

GP2 Series [series website]
Circuit du Nevers Magny-Cours, Nevers, France
Held: 21 & 22 June
Watched: 14 August


Anchor & interviews: Charlie Webster
Commentary: David Croft & Chris Goodwin

I wrote some notes on the GP2, as promised. These notes are for my own writing practice and I don’t know if I’ll do the same for the following races (unless there is a demand – hit the comments if you are interested).

I’ve been storing these up unintentionally, you know how it is, you keep meaning to watch something but never get around to it, I’m the same with DVDs. This is why I’m only as far as France when the series has since visited Britain, Germany and Hungary.

GP2 has two races per weekend, a long Feature race with a pit stop on Saturday, and a short Sprint race without stops on Sunday morning before the Grand Prix. All races this year are on the F1 undercard whenever F1 is in Europe. There are 20 races at 10 events, France saw rounds 7 and 8 of the 2008 series.

Points after rounds 5 and 6 in Monaco:

Senna 24
Pantano 24
Grosjean 19
Parente 19
Buemi 14

Senna and Grosjean have been hotly tipped to be the main title fight since the winter, but Pantano has something to say about that while I’ve tipped Parente as a talent for a while now. Red Bull (company not F1 team) have chosen Buemi for their never ending conveyor belt of talent.

I’ve rambled enough so let’s skip the pre-race and go straight in.

FEATURE RACE
(41 laps, roughly 1 hour, inc. 1 mandatory pitstop for at least 2 tyres and no fuel)

Start order has changed between the graphic and the start line, due to grid penalties for infractions in qualifying. ITV didn’t update their graphics. All I know right now is that there are 26 starters and GP2 paint schemes are impossible to identify.

Beverage selection: Kronenboug 1664 with the new fangled device for the little bubbles. Kroney is one of the best mass market lagers going although frankly I prefer the bigger bubbles so I’ll not spend the extra money on that again.

Valerio stalls on the formation lap and will start from pitlane.

Lots of drivers have changed teams for this race due to injury, not gelling with the team, or sponsors failed to poney up. Too many changes to go through now as the cars line up!

5..4..3..2..1..GO

Action everywhere, don’t know where to look. Dust at the back.

Kobayashi didn’t get away, pushed into pits.

Fillipi passes someone but so do a lot of people.

Order at start of L2, top 8:
Senna, Pantano, Grosjean, di Grassi, Maldonado, Petrov, Zuber, Buemi

di Grassi has returned after time away, this is his first GP2 race of the year. He was a frontrunner last year and has been testing F1 cars for Renault.

Fillipi runs through the gravel.

L3 – race is settling down now. GP2 paint schemes are very vague and the driver helmets don’t really stand out, add in that half the grid is unpronounceable, making it difficult to follow when there is a lot of action at once. But we love it anyway.

12 months ago Ernesto ‘EJ’ Viso (now in IndyCar) had an almighty shunt at this track. Look it up on YouTube.

L7 – Pit stop window is officially open. You’re not allowed to take your mandatory stop in the first or last few laps of the race. Only applies in Feature, not Sprint. Need to change 2 tyres at least. If you pit before the window, you’ve gotta come in again. Durango car runs wide.

They are using F1-style lap counter so at L8 they show 33/41. I’ll say 33 To Go (TG).

33TG – Buurman in, he’s way back so we don’t stick with it.
Maldonaldo locks brakes.

32TG – Cars are running close together but seem unable to pass. For the last few years passing has been exceptional in GP2 but they changed the aero this year which seems to have killed a lot of it.

31TG – Chandhok in 9th is being caught quickly by Conway.

27TG – Pitstops began while ITV were in break. d’Ambrosio passes Buemi who had just pitted.
Zuber stops. He emerges in front of a lot of guys but clear road ahead. Well timed.

26TG – Grosjean in. And out okay, no problem. emerges roughly 8th. When will Senna stop?

Chandhok in a lap later, he’s Senna’s teammate so maybe the crew are warming up.
3 wide through the hairpin!

23TG – Senna stops. JUST out in front of Grosjean, retains his lead and only just. Grosjean tries a move on warm tyres in to the hairpin, can’t make it stick. He’s pushing hard through this lap whilst Senna is on cooler tyres.

A lap later, Grosjean has the momentum along the long straight and dive bombs Senna inside, gets him! Senna saw him, didn’t turn in on him, others wouldn’t even have seen it coming.

Conway leads but hasn’t stopped, then Grosjean, then Senna who both have, as has Georgio Pantano in 4th who is also quick.

Oh! Senna slows on the straight. iSport guys hands in the air. Continuing. What happened there?

Grosjean passes Conway who is on worn, old tyres. Why hasn’t he pitted? Conway concedes to Pantano almost straight away.

Senna brings the car in and gets out. Lack of drive, or a gear selection problem?

18TG Conway is in.

Jean Todt looks on at the ART pitwall, his son runs that team and is also Felipe Massa’ manager. What conflict of interest?

Senna’s retirement puts Pantano 2nd and he just set Fastest Lap on L24.
Aha we have a pit report from Charlie, she’s with Senna. “Clutch failed. Car was brilliant but then the clutch went.”

Conway emerged in 10th. Ought to have pitted earlier before his old set were too worn.

13TG – Gap from 1st to 2nd is 0.7sec. Pantano gets it a bit wrong in the next to last corner. Buemi pits from 18th and they aren’t in a hurry to attend to it, he’s done. He’s not getting out though…

So far we’ve had six races and six different winners. This race will end that run – but last year we went nine races! That was until Glock repeated in Germany. This year Grosjean will end the run. F1 drive for him next year?

10TG Valerio passes Asmer and someone who’s name I can’t spell, in one move way back in the field. Asmer might be a lap back at the rate he’s going there. [EDIT – he’s not]

TV focussing on battle for 14th despite a close fight up front. Commentators a bit frustrated as it isn’t in ITV’s control which pictures we see.

9TG Fillipi defends from Nunes. Didn’t think I’d write that ever. Nunes locks up and drops back. Commentary tells us he went testing and found pace last week.

Grosjean slow!! He skips the chicane and he’s at walking pace. Cars flashing by at speed. Pantano leads! Car is in the rev limiter. Clucth problems again? Sounds like it. He pits. This is his home race, he’s gutted.

5TG – Pantano now has a clear lead of 9 seconds over di Grassi. Maldonado is 3rd, Petrov 4th.
Charlie with Romain Grosjean: “Gearbox. Hydraulic pressure problem, it was fine but suddenly I exit the hairpin and the car was not working. I was leading at the French GP which is something special for me.”

3TG – Good fight between Buurman, Soucek and Villa back in the field. Two of them lock up and go wide, cut back in, Villa couldn’t get through.

FLAG – Pantano wins!
I can’t recall if he won earlier in the year so don’t know if the winning streak is still unbroken.

Results:
Pantano, di Grassi, Maldonado, Petrov, Zuber, d’Ambrosio, Chandhok, Conway, Parente, Fillipi, Nunes, Buurman, Soucek, Villa, Valles, Iaconelli, Asmer, Valerio (+ 2 laps), Grosjean (DNF), Rodriguez (DNF), Buemi (DNF), Hanley (DNF), Senna (DNF), Herck (DNF), Tung (DNF), Kobayashi (DNF)

Points go to the top 8 positions in this race, plus a bonus for Fastest Lap which goes to Pantano. Note that you have to finish in the top ten to claim that point, all through last year guys at the back pitted for fresh tyres and did qualifying laps to get that point, hence the rule change.

I’m skipping through the podium ceremony and Conway interview to get to the winner.

Pantano: “Great win, great start, we tried to push Senna working together, lose a bit in the pit but was quicker than them. Difficult to stay close in turn 2. This weekend I have the luck. It’s good. I have so many problems like those in the past and this year is going well for me.”

Long interview which I really cut down. Also talked to Maldonado. They are all saying the race was very difficult, tough on gearbox and brakes.

I’ll skip the points and do that after the Sprint race.

SPRINT
(28 laps, no mandatory pitstops)

Starting order: The grid is decided by the finishing order of the Feature race but with the top 8 positions reversed. Conway is on pole, Pantano is 8th and positions from 9th down are as they crossed the line yesterday (or how many laps they completed if a DNF) – that puts Grosjean and Senna at the back.

Cars are on the grid which is damp, some guys have intermediate/wet tyres and some have dries, this could be interesting!

5..4..3..2..1..GO!

D’Ambrosio and Petrov away very quickly, up to P2 and 3. Slick-shod guys are slow away and dropping back. Grosjean picking off three cars in a hundred yards under braking for the hairpin!

Chandhok slides very wide, luckily no gravel there.

27TG – Conway, D’Ambrosio, Petrov, di Grassi, Zuber, Maldonado, Pantano, Nunes.

D’Ambrosio goes bouncing along the kerbs, loses many places, now 15th.

A car through the polystyrene distance markers! It was Valerio. Quelle surprise! Marker disintegrates, drivers will just have to remember where 50 metres is because unlike computer games it doesn’t magically reappear next lap.

D’Ambrosio pits and engine off. He’d hit another car with his front wheel later in the lap and must have damaged the steering or suspension.

Laptimes are 18 seconds slower than yesterday’s race due to the wet – but it doesn’t look all that wet out there, it isn’t raining and the track is only damp with dry areas.

25TG – Valerio pits, he’s done.

Two wide at the end of the lap!

On the onboard camera you can see it is very wet in turn one. Rest of the track seems okay. Conway sets fastest lap.

23TG – Pantano tries it around the outside of Maldonado but there’s no way that’ll work there.

Cars are pitting from dry tyres. Grosjean, Chandhok, who else is there?
Kobayashi.

22TG – Conway pits for dries as does di Grassi. Petrov now leads, then Maldonado, then Pantano.

Woah someone off quickly into the gravel – it’s Grosjean on his dry tyres!!

21TG – Senna started on dries, so did Buurman. Both are moving up the field as other pit and struggle to get temperatures up.
Maldonado pits for dries.

20TG – Pantano pits. This puts Buurman in 2nd but he’s under pressure from Parente and Buemi all on slicks. Pantano weaving in the pits to get heat into the tyres.
Asmer spins 360 and continues. Buemi sets fastest lap and passes Parente.

19TG – Petrov pits, Buurman leads and sets new fastest lap which is immediately beaten by di Grassi. Everyone now hopes it won’t rain again.
Senna spins! Rejoins.

17TG – Petrov passes Zuber for 11th. Pantano is now running 14th.

16TG – 2 very slow cars which Zuber flies past at huge speed – he’s at racing speed and those two were crawling, no idea why.

15TG – Pantano t-bones Petrov at the hairpin, slow-speed corner so hopefully not too much damage. Looks like Petrov might have turned in on him, didn’t see him there or didn’t expect the move. No, Pantano’s suspension is damaged he’s struggling. A win and a no-score for him. That’s GP2.

13TG – Parente goes off and drops back. Got his braking wrong, lost a couple of seconds but no positions. Valerio is back in the race but we only know that because there he is running through the gravel! Pressdog talks about clowns jumping out of cars and disrupting race cars… Valerio is that clown! The Great Valerio!
Zuber takes an unknown car.

11TG – Pantano had suspension damage, but his radio had already broken so he had to make the call to pit for tyres earlier, no info from team.
Laptimes are more like it, only 6 seconds down on dry times now.

10TG – Zuber takes Villa for 10th and Kobayashi follows him by. Parente slow on the pit straight so loses a place to Senna. Replay: He spun on the chicane kerbs and is now back up to speed.

8TG – Teammates Buurman and Buemi fighting for the lead. Parente has retaken Senna who looks like he has more gearbox trouble. He may continue running.

Buurman ran wide, Buemi alongside all down the long straight! Buemi takes it at the hairpin. Nice move. Clearly no team orders at Arden!

4TG – Parente is dropping places again, he’s slow rather than spinning.. Technical problems. Meanwhile Petrov in 13th runs off track through the gravel, manages to get out. Hanley then into the same patch of gravel but has beached it, he’s out. Local yellows.

3TG – Fillipi passes Senna who is struggling on the straight. A lap later di Grassi gets him in the same way.

FLAG – Sebastien Buemi wins from 21st on the grid! Good choice to start on dry tyres when most of the field were on wets.

Results:

Buemi, Buurman, Fillipi, di Grassi, Senna, Conway, Maldonado, Zuber, Kobayashi, Villa, Asmer, Valles (+ 1 lap), Iaconelli (+1), Tung (+2), Herck (+2), Rodriguez (+2), Valerio (+2), Petrov (+3). DNF: Parente, Hanley, Nunes, Pantano, Chandhok, Grosjean, Soucek, D’Ambrosio.

Fastest lap point goes to Kobayashi.

Championship Points after 8 of 20:

Pantano 35
Senna 28
Buemi 20
Grosjean 19
Parente 19
Maldonado 18

Pantano and Senna are building a lead over the others, can Grosjean make amends next time out?

Teams:

iSport International 41
Racing Engineering 38
Piquet Sports 35
Barwa Int’l Campos Team 29
Trust Team Arden 25

Amazingly, the previously dominant ART Grand Prix are only 6th in the team standings despite Grosjean’s standing. The reason is his teammate Fillipi only got his first points of the year at the Sprint race in France.

The next race (for me at least) is at the British Grand Prix meeting at Silverstone. The next race in real life is at the European GP in Valencia, Spain.

I hope you enjoyed reading. Hit the comments box if you’d like me to continue covering GP2 in this way. I’ll make a decision next week when I watch the races at Silverstone.

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