Race Review: GP2 Asia Sepang ’09

GP2 Asia Series 2008/09
Sepang, Malaysia
Held: 4&5 April 09
Commentary: Martin Haven & Gareth Rees

Continuing my Race Review catch up series, this was the primary support event to the Malaysian GP and is the penultimate round of the series.

Points coming in:

Kobayashi 39
Valsecchi 29
Hülkenberg 27
Perez 25
D’Ambrosio 23

Feature Race – 33 laps
(the Sprint Race is noted below)

Qualifying:
1. D’Ambrosio (DAMS)
2. Nunes (Piquet GP)
3. Jakes (Super Nova)
4. Kobayashi (DAMS)
5. Villa (Super Nova)
6. Petrov (Campos)

The top 22 are covered by under 1 second, which the guys say is a surprise, and as Gareth says “this isn’t Mallory Park this is a proper Grand Prix circuit”.

Drama as the coverage begins as D’Ambrosio has NOT taken his pole position! His car broke down on the warm-up lap and he had to pit, he won’t take the start, could rejoin later but will be many laps down.

The other omission is Nico Hülkenberg who is not racing this weekend, Pastor Maldonado has reclaimed the seat.

START

Several slow starts and the cars fan out wide, Villa stalls it from 5th on the grid. Lots of bumping and contact through that twiddly bit at the start of the lap.

Lots of side-by-side action throughout the first lap, but Mortara is out on lap one.
Nunes leads Petrov, Kobayashi and Maldonado.

32 to go – Parente passes..someone. Hard to tell. These liveries aren’t easy to ID.

30 – Perez started 18th but is already up to 10th.

27 – Nunes leads, in 2nd and 3rd Petrov and Kobayashi are all over each other!

26 – Early pit stop for Kobayashi. He was sort of caught behind Petrov.
Ooh, Petrov runs VERY wide and allows Jakes into 2nd place.

25 – Maldonado pushing hard runs wide, scoots across the grasscrete or whatever it is, rejoins with dirty tyres and some positions down. Gareth: “Typical Pastor”. The guys say he’s a charming chap but he’s a rough diamond.

Nice move by Yelmer Buurman on Vitaly Petrov, who is really struggling to get his car stopped yet still made Buurman work for it.

23 – Petrov loses another place as someone drafts him down the back straight, so he dives into the pits for new rear tyres.
Slow car on track: Razia crawling in 1st or maybe even coasting.

22 – Maldonado pits.. he’s got damage on the nose. He’s out in 15th with more yet to stop.

Shots of F1 personnel on the pit stand watching the race, including Nelson Piquet Jr and Felipe Massa. Remember this race happened shortly after F1 qualifying. Parente takes Gonzalez, who then pits..

20 – Nunes pits from the lead, as does Valsecchi who has a very slow stop with a sticking right rear.

19 – Perez has stopped in the pit entry, nearly blocking it. Dark clouds are approaching!
Perez has been pushed to his pit – replay and it looks like his radiator has been holed.

17 – Jakes is pushing Kobayashi for what will end up as 2nd after the pitstops.

15 – Al-Fardan finally makes his stop, the last to do so.

8 – Jakes is still close behind Kobayashi but can’t seem to do anything about it.

7 – Maldonado smokes his tyres in an attempt to pass Petrov, can’t make it by at the hairpin, tries it again at turn one and still can’t do it! Couple of flat-spots on those tyres now, Valsecchi watching on.

4 – Discussion on the merits of KERS and how GP2 could have it if F1 develops it to be cheap enough. Hmm, hindsight.. 🙂

3 – Maldonado makes an error and allows Parente to draw alongside, both have patience and Parente takes the position. Comment from Gareth that the Maldonado of old would’ve taken Parente out there and then.

2 – Maldonado and Valsecchi are close together as they lap a backmarker, both are just a little behind Petrov.

Diego Nunes wins!

Result:
1 Nunes (PiquetGP) 33 laps
2 Kobayashi (DAMS) +8.36s
3 Jakes (Super Nova) +9.15s
4 Rodriguez (PiquetGP) +13.87s
5 Buurman (Ocean) +16.81s
6 Petrov (Campos) +41.46s

Summary:
Pretty flat end to the race. Lots of drivers in little close groups but not seemingly able to do anything to make a pass. Good job from Nunes and Jakes, complete change of fortunes over previous form, well done. Amazingly, Al-Fardan came 9th after looking utterly hopeless back in Qatar.

Sprint Race – 22 laps

It is wet for Sunday’s race, which was held a couple of hours before the F1 race. As ever the grid is the result of the Feature with the top 8 reversed.

1 Valsecchi
2 Maldonado
3 Petrov
4 Buurman
5 Rodriguez
6 Jakes

As it turns out this race has been delayed by 30 minutes by the wet conditions and we will have a Safety Car start (and no formation lap).

START

Yamamoto has stalled at the start and so has one of the FMS cars, could be Chen. Both cars are pushed into the pitlane. Yamamoto gets fired but stops at the end of pitlane, while they are taking the engine cover off Chen’s car. I’m not sure why Yamamoto stopped, he has a green light which now turns red as the field comes by behind the SC to complete lap 1.

18 to go – Safety Car is in, green flag!
Contact on the last corner between Maldonado and Valsecchi.

A couple of spinners at turn two including James Jakes – that’s a shame after his race 1 run.

No rain but the track is very wet, the cars are kicking up spray so it is hard to see who is close behind someone.

17 – Maldonado tries several times and makes it by Valsecchi, Petrov’s coming with him. Meanwhile Buurman runs wide and loses a couple of places. I was doing the same at that corner on the Wii last night..

16 – Kobayashi brakes far too late and runs into the wide runoff at turn one, loses a position.

15 – Maldonado leads, followed by Petrov, Valsecchi, Nunes, Al Fardan, Buurman, Parente and Gonzalez. Kobayashi is 11th, D’Ambrosio 17th.

12 – The DPR cars are off course and out of the race.

Nice dive from Petrov at the final corner to pass Maldonado for the lead! Interesting to see Petrov is quite a bit faster today, relative the rest of the field.

11 – Petrov, Maldonado, Valsecchi, Nunes, Al Fardan, Gonzalez, Kobayashi, Buurman. Points only go to the top 6 in the Sprint though.

Petrov just set the fastest lap of the race. Apparently Jakes got the point for FL yesterday (Villa was faster, Jakes was fastest of the top ten finishers, a rule to prevent pitting for tyres and going for a time).

Replay of D’Ambrosio running off track into an area where several marshalls and a tractor were working on two cars already – dangerous stuff, he should’ve backed off under yellow and he didn’t. Commentary guys are saying he should get a penalty, I agree.

9 – Rodriguez off course, too much speed and into the gravel. I think he recovers eventually.
Pics of Razia walking back to the pits.

The track is drying now and there’s not much spray. Due to the Safety Car start and the wet conditions this is now a timed race and there are 11 minutes to go.

D’Ambrosio does indeed get a black flag, hooray for the stewards! Replay again, the car in front checks up and Jerome just drives by and off course. He pits and shuts down the engine – looks like a straight black flag and not a time penalty!

8mins – Replay of Al Fardan running wide at turn one, same way Rodriguez did.

Perez vs Gonzalez – Perez makes the pass through turns 1 and 2 but loses out at the switchback, he makes it stick a few corners later.

5mins – Nunes sets Fastest Lap. The guys are talking about setups, some of those who have gone for dry or intermediate setups should be getting faster than the guys with wet setups now.

2m30s – Parente is now fastest. Kobayashi is pressuring Al Fardan for 4th, he’s closed up but doesn’t seem to be able to make the move.

The clock hits zero, last lap.

Vitaly Petrov wins!

Kobayashi and Perez cross the line side-by-side!! Who got it? How did Perez get up to Kobayashi?
Replays: Perez gets the position by half a nose! Fantastic, and it was the final points place as well..

Result:
1 Petrov (Campos) 22 laps
2 Maldonado (ART) +2.91s
3 Valsecchi (Durango) +4.34s
4 Nunes (Piquet GP) +6.36s
5 Al Fardan (iSport) +21.54s
6 Perez (Campos) +24.49s

Summary:
A drying race track saw some desparate moves, some worked and some didn’t and it was fun to watch both those and the struggles to control the cars on the slippery surface.

POINTS:
1 Kobayashi 47
2 Valsecchi 34
3 Petrov 28
4 Hulkenberg 27
5 Rodriguez 27
6 Perez 26

Next up is final round of this GP2 Asia season supporting the Bahrain GP, and with 22 points available for two wins and two fastest laps it isn’t over yet.

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