Sam Bird withstood pressure late on from both Stefano Coletti and Felipe Nasr to take victory in the Sprint Race of the GP2 weekend shadowing the Formula One circus in Bahrain.
Starting from third for the RUSSIAN TIME squad Bird took the lead at the final corner of the opening lap from teammate Tom Dillmann who had started the race from pole after finishing eighth in Saturday’s Feature Race. Dillmann fought back past the pits, the two dark blue liveried cars braking side-by-side for turn one to start the second lap. Bird held on, but Dillmann’s attempt to retake the lead instead presented Stefano Coletti with the opportunity he needed to take second place.
Though fast starting, having moved into third on the opening lap after starting from seventh Coletti was initially unable to push on to close the gap to Bird, the British driver instead pulling away into a lead of over three seconds before – as in the longer race – tyre wear started to push Bird back into the clutches of Coletti in the final laps.
Trying to take the lead, Coletti locked up and ran wide at the final corner on the penultimate lap allowing Nasr through to pile the final pressure onto Bird, the Brazilian crossed the finish line tucked up under the rear wing of Bird’s car, the official margin of victory just 0.08 seconds.
Despite a ragged final lap Coletti completed the podium, extending his championship lead as Saturday winner Fabio Leimer failed to score after being embroiled in a race-long scrap for the minor points.
The Swiss driver had to cope with a damaged car, the left sidepod on his Racing Engineering car impaled by the front wing of Alexander Rossi’s Caterham entry. The American was the major casualty of the first turn pinch point when he half spun into Leimer after contact with Jolyon Palmer. The three-way contact was a reprieve for Nasr, who had lost places on the drag down to the opening corner, but was able to pass all three around the outside as they clashed.
Having been passed by Coletti and Nasr Dillmann became the head of the train that was to form the battle for the minor points. Adrian Quaife–Hobbs was unable to relegate Dillmann further and increasingly become the cork in the bottle himself heading Leimer, Palmer and ART Grand Prix teammates James Calado and Daniel Abt.
Calado was able to fight up to fifth in the closing laps to salvage some points from a disappointing weekend with Palmer sixth and Abt seventh. Quaife-Hobbs held on for the final point in eighth place as Leimer – consistently locking brakes and adjusting brake balance through the race – slipped back to ninth place.