Davide Valsecchi ended a mixed 2010 on a high note by winning the Abu Dhabi Sprint Race. The iSport International driver made a strong start to take the lead on the opening lap, and held on under pressure to record his first GP2 main series win for over two years.
The Italian driver began the year by winning the GP2 Asia Series in dominant fashion, which included victories at the very same Yas Marina Circuit on which he took victory today. However, he has struggled in the main series this year, scoring just two podium finishes prior to today.
Polesitter Josef Kral made a poor start, allowing fellow front-row starter Luiz Razia to lead into Turn 1, with Romain Grosjean and Valsecchi following. Razia ran wide on the exit of the corner, allowing Grosjean and Valsecchi to run side-by-side for the lead. As Razia rejoined, Grosjean was forced to lift, handing Valsecchi the lead.
Razia applied pressure to Valsecchi throughout the race but was unable to get close enough to pass him. His second-place did give his team Rapax the teams' title over Barwa Addax. Grosjean settled for third.
A fierce battle for fourth had developed early in the race, with Dani Clos heading Sam Bird. Feature race winner Sergio Perez joined the action once he had passed Kral for sixth, but made a mess of his attempted pass on Bird. The Mexican lunged down the inside of Bird at Turn 8, but collided into the Brit, ending both their races. Clos finished in fourth, but was unable to take third in the standings from Jules Bianchi.
Kral ended the race in fifth, ahead of Oliver Turvey who held off late pressure from Brendon Hartley to take the final point.
Giedo van der Garde endured a tough race, having to serve three drive-through penalties for a jump-start, failure to respect the track limits and speeding in the pitlane.
In the post-race press conference, Valsecchi said: “Today was perfect. Yesterday we were a bit disappointed because the car was incredible but we missed the podium because we had mechanical problems, we missed one gear for two or three laps and I went five seconds slower in these laps and I lost third position and was fifth, far away, and there was no chance to finish third. But anyway, today we got the victory and we saved the situation! I am really happy because I made a good start when I needed it, I made a really good first lap, and then the team gave me a good car: mid race it was a good car, at the end it was a perfect car.
“We were fast enough to make a gap to the others and make a victory, and today was really, really good. It's a shame that we caught a victory maybe a bit too late, because we had the chance to win in Istanbul and lost it, the chance to be competitive in Valencia and I took a penalty, we had the chance to win in Budapest when we started at the front of the grid and had a mechanical problem. So maybe it's a bit too late, but we're happy now that we've won it.”
Razia said: “I knew that the start was the main opportunity to win this race, and actually I had a good start but I braked a little bit too late in the first turn, I went wide and I lost my first position to Valsecchi, who did a pretty good start, and actually was there. In the middle of the race the car was fine and I was trying to keep the tyres as slow as possible to have to the end, but the Valsecchi car was pretty good: I put a bit of pressure on in the middle of the race but it was not enough to overtake.
“The team told me that Perez was out, so I was trying to secure the team championship as well, so I did not try to do any crazy overtake, and in the end it was quite good. The tyres came to me in the end and I tried to do the fastest lap, and I think I did, I'm not quite sure, and it was a good race.”
Grosjean added: “It's always good to finish the season on the podium. It's good for the team, for the mechanics, myself. We worked pretty hard working all weekend on the set up for this track, but I guess there are still things that we need to understand. But it was a good weekend, and finishing on the podium is always good.”