Adrian Quaife-Hobbs has put in a storming performance at Monza to send a message to his rivals that Hilmer Motorsport means business in GP2.
The Brit was given the lead almost too easily after pole sitter Alexander Rossi made a woeful get away from the pole position to give Quaife-Hobbs a solid lead going into the first chicane.
One man who got an even worse start than the American was Force India tester James Calado – having stalled from third on the grid he certainly tightened up the track for those behind him on the grid. That meant Sam Bird and Stephane Richelmi were fighting tooth and nail going into the first chicane so aggressively that they collided, sending the Brit over the speed humps lining the chicane’s run off and breaking the Monegasque’s front wing.
All that fighting meant that Colombian Julian Leal sent himself up to third place – a position he would hold till the end not able to make a move on Rossi.
Seven laps in and panic spread down the field – rain had begun to fall – which begged the question: would it be wet enough to change tyres? The only man who made the change was man at the back Calado – whilst he seemed to have made the right decision initially, the rain definitely did not hold up long enough for wets to have been the worthwhile option.
After the track dried up again the top two were playing a game of tag – swapping fastest laps throughout the closing stages. In the end it was Quaife-Hobbs who crossed the line with a 1.8 second advantage.
In fourth place it was Russian Time’s Bird with team mate Tom Dillmann coming in behind following a relatively quiet race for the driver as sixth place Fabio Leimer never got close enough to pressure.
In the GP2 points table Leimer now has 159 points but has seen his lead shrink to only six points from Bird with former GP2 leader Stefano Coletti way back on 135 points following a non points scoring finish.
The penultimate GP2 round is at Singapore in less than two weeks time, with the potential for the title battle to become a two way fight between Bird and Leimer going into the final round at Abu Dhabi.