Norman Nato claimed his maiden GP2 Series victory around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Saturday, when he powered to victory ahead of Nicholas Latifi and pole position man, Pierre Gasly. In a race which saw a total of three Safety Car periods under the Spanish sun, the Racing Engineering driver kept a cool head in order to take the lead, mid-race and a fastest lap.
The 2016 field lined-up on the grid behind Gasly in tremendous sunshine and were underway, with the Red Bull Junior driver leading into Turn 1, whilst Nato followed closely behind. Sergey Sirotkin had a wonderful start, easily getting past both Alex Lynn and Latifi before the first corner, whilst the two of them kept the likes of Gustav Malja and Russia’s Artem Markelov.
GP3 Series graduate, Luca Ghiotto caused a Safety Car when he appeared to have escaped at Turn 4, the Italian driver being forced to retire as the rest of the field continued on the Lap 5 restart. Gasly continued to lead at the restart as Sergio Canamasas managed to get past Rapax’s Malja.
Lynn and Jordan King were the first of the drivers to make a visit to the pitlane as they stopped to changing onto their Super Soft Pirelli tyres. Lynn hoped to get the upper hand over his DAMS teammate on strategy, but Gasly seemed to have too much pace and control over the race for the British driver to have a go at the Frenchman.
Sirotkin was pushing hard behind Nato and looked good to overtake the Frenchman, but the ART Grand Prix driver spun at the second corner on Lap 23, and stalled the car, causing another Safety Car period – opening the window up for the rest of the field to hit the pitlane.
Markelov quickly dispatched King and Lynn to take fifth position when the race got underway again on Lap 26, while Norman Nato mugged Gasly at the front of the pack with a courageous move in the final part of the circuit to take the lead of the race.
With the amount of Safety Car periods throughout the race, the clock began to tick down rather than the laps. Latifi took the countdown as a signal to quickly get past Gasly in order to rush into second position, on Lap 32 of the race. Markelov echoed the move made by Latifi, but used it to get past Canamasas in front of the Spaniard’s home crowd. A few corners later, Rafaelle Marciello was hit and spun by PREMA Racing rookie, Antonio Giovinazzi, causing the third Safety Car of the race, which remained out of circuit until the chequered flag.
Nato crossed the line to take the win on his Racing Engineering debut, with Canadian driver Latifi close behind, in order to take his first podium. Gasly came home third in his PREMA Racing car. Markelov was delighted to claim a fourth place finish ahead of Lynn and Canamasas. King and GIovinazzi were seventh and eighth whilst Malja and Oliver Rowland were the last of the points finishers.
After the race, Norman Nato commented on his win by saying: “…I‘m really happy, and I don’t think it’s a surprise because we worked really hard over the winter, but it’s a long race.
We knew we had the pace to fight for the win, but it was difficult because the pace of Pierre was really strong, and Nicholas and Sirotkin as well, so it was a long race! I had only one opportunity to pass and I did it, so I’m really happy and I would like to thank my team for such a good job.”
Following the race, Giovinazzi received a drive through penalty for his late race incident with Raffaele Marciello. As the Italian was unable to take the penalty, it was turned into a 20 second time penalty.