Romain Grosjean took a dominant victory in the GP2 Asia Feature Race at Imola, a result that moves the Frenchman into the lead of the standings with just Sunday's sprint race remaining.
Starting from pole position, Grosjean held on to the lead despite a challenge from Giedo van der Garde, who had made a brilliant start to move up from fifth on the grid to second. Front row starter Sam Bird made a poor getaway and dropped back to eighth position.
Grosjean pulled away from van der Garde over the course of the race, taking the checkered flag with a margin of more than 14 seconds.
In the post-race press conference Grosjean said: “It felt very good. It's my first win in GP2 since Monaco 2009. It's a long way. I am very pleased for the team. We did a great job from the free practice to qualifying and then to the race. Unfortunately we did not have much data to work from after free practice because I crashed. We didn't know how it was going. They did the right choice on the set up so I am very pleased and that gives me great confidence to keep pushing with the team.”
Behind van der Garde, who had a quiet run to second, Jules Bianchi finished third. Having dropped to fifth at the start the Frenchman found himself sandwiched between Josef Kral and Jolyon Palmer. Palmer damaged his front wing when he clipped Bianchi early on, while Bianchi got past Kral on lap six, the Czech driver later suffering a puncture that dropped him back. Bianchi closed down Michael Herck for third and passed the Romanian during the pitstops.
Having led the standings coming to Imola, Bianchi is now the only man who can stop compatriot Grosjean from taking the title. Grosjean has a five point lead with six available for a win in the sprint race.
Grosjean added: “At the beginning of the season, we were seeing the Asia Series like a test before the main Series. But when you are fighting at the front with drivers like Jules and Giedo you want to win. We will try our best to do well tomorrow and see if we can drink some champagne tomorrow evening.”
Having gone backwards at the start, Bird found himself battling iSport teammate Marcus Ericsson, a battle that ended in a collision between the pair, which put Bird into retirement and dropped Ericsson out of the points and out of contention for the title.
All this allowed Stefano Coletti to finish in fifth – the winner of the Abu Dhabi sprint race having moved up from 16th on the grid. He had taken the position when Davide Valsecchi went off in front of him. Although Valsecchi held on for sixth at the finish, he was later excluded after his Team AirAsia car failed the post-race ride height checks.
This gave sixth to Fabio Leimer, with Dani Clos in seventh having climbed from 20th on the grid. Fairuz Fauzy benefited from Valsecchi's exclusion to take eighth place and pole position for the sprint race.
Results after 35 laps:
|2.||Giedo van der Garde||Barwa Addax Team||+14.349|
|3.||Jules Bianchi||Lotus ART||+17.527|
|4.||Michael Herck||Scuderia Coloni||+ 21.502|
|5.||Stefano Coletti||Trident Racing||+41.228|
|8.||Dani Clos||Racing Engineering||+52.813|
|9.||Fairuz Fauzy||Super Nova Racing||+53.964|
|10.||Rodolfo Gonzalez||Trident Racing||+54.224|
|11.||Marcus Ericsson||iSport International||+54.661|
|12.||Esteban Gutierrez||Lotus ART||+55.390|
|13.||Josef Kral||Arden International||+55.840|
|15.||Oliver Turvey||Ocean Racing Technology||+1:19.721|
|16.||Johnny Cecotto||Super Nova Racing||+1:20.567|
|18.||Andrea Caldarelli||Ocean Racing Technology||+1:24.224|
|19.||Jolyon Palmer||Arden International||+1:24.503|
|21.||Charles Pic||Barwa Addax Team||+1m29.215|
|23.||Luca Filippi||Scuderia Coloni||+1m31.058|
|R.||Nathanael Berthon||Racing Engineering||15 laps|
|R.||Sam Bird||iSport International||7 laps|
|R.||Luiz Razia||Team AirAsia||0 laps|
|EX.||Davide Valsecchi||Team AirAsia||Excluded|