Senna takes maiden GP2 win
Bruno Senna has powered his way to his first ever GP2 win, making full use of a chaotic start to the race to switch pit strategies and outfox poleman Timo Glock in the closing stages of an frantic first race in Barcelona.
The Brazilian’s life was made a lot easier when Jason Tahinci stalled on the grid before the start, which was then aborted. This was to the detriment of front row starter Andi Zuber, who stalled as the others got under way again: he was pushed into the pitlane and his race was run.
With the temperature rising Glock was serene at the second start, pulling away strongly from the second row of Lucas di Grassi and Nicolas Lapierre. The Frenchman was particularly slow, which made Senna’s strong start look even stronger as he stormed by.
Giorgio Pantano had another one of his lightning starts as well: so fast was he that he moved up from eighth on the grid to be ahead of Mike Conway, who had started fifth but failed to leave enough room for the lightning quick Italian. Conway ran straight into Pantano at turn one, who was pushed into countryman Luca Filippi and then dominoed into Antonio Pizzonia, with all four drivers out on the spot.
More mayhem ensued one corner later as Xandi Negrao speared across the gravel and into the barriers, necessitating a quick check up in the local hospital after he briefly passed out.
With Karun Chandhok having run over the grass before spearing across the oncoming traffic on the front straight into the wall, there was no choice but to call out the safety car, which was soon leading the field through the pits for their first ‘racing’ lap.
Opportunities like that don’t come along every day and, with options flying furiously through the heads of most of the men on the pitwall, the chance of a penalty free stop was served up on a plate.
Lucas di Grassi and Senna were the first men to stop, followed immediately by most of the remaining field. With a few remaining stragglers taking their stop the next time around, the drivers who didn’t stop were but four: race leader Glock, along with Adrian Zaugg, Sergio Jimenez and Andy Soucek.
The big question now was how would the strategy work? The three leaders had to hope that they could pull out a big enough gap so that they could take advantage of the newer tires later in the race, when everyone else’s were fading away.
Behind the non-stoppers were Senna, who had made a good enough stop to get past di Grassi, who in turn had dropped to seventh behind Nicolas Lapierre but ahead of Borja Garcia, Vitaly Petrov, Kazuki Nakajima and Roldan Rodriguez.
Glock made a tremendous restart when the racers were released, easily pulling away from Zaugg, while behind him Senna was wasting no time in moving up the grid: he was immediately past Soucek and looking for more.
The German’s race was now largely in the hands of Zaugg, who was doing him a tremendous favor by holding up the remainder of the field as Glock pulled away at over a second a lap: he needed 30 seconds to be sure of the win, and was doing all he could to find it as quickly as possible.
Further back and Rodriguez was having a tremendous race, devouring his competitors like a man at a pie eating contest. He was immediately past Nakajima into turn one, and then into the points paying positions a lap later by claiming Garcia’s scalp at the same spot.
Crucially for the race leader Zaugg was making full use of the circuit’s reputation as a notoriously difficult place to overtake, heading a train of cars as Glock tore away. Senna, however, was biding his time, waiting for the race to come back to him.
And, slowly, it was. Jiminez was in on lap 18, promoting the Brazilian to third, which became second four laps later when Zaugg lost the back of his car out of the final turn, spinning luridly in front of his teammate before coming to rest at the pitlane entrance.
Now the dogfight was on. Glock has a 19 second gap over his rival, and the pair were the only men still in the 1.31 lap bracket after di Grassi’s tires forced him to drop his pace back below that of Senna.
Further back and Nakajima was trying to following in Rodriguez’s footsteps: the Japanese driver was monstering Garcia for a points finish, but the plucky Spaniard was not going to give up his home race so easily and the pair were embroiled in a torrid battle.
The inevitable happened when the irresistible force met the immovable object into the final turn: Nakajima bounced off Garcia and ran wide into the gravel trap before rolling back out with a slow puncture for his troubles.
But all eyes were on the front of the race to see which of the leading pair would blink first. Glock and Senna were pulling away from di Grassi in third, but there was nothing between the pair: Glock may have had a fractional advantage, but time was getting away and he still needed to make a stop.
On lap 27 it came, and the timing screens relayed the story: as he rolled into the pits Glock was 19.2 seconds ahead of Senna, who in turn had a 5.7 second gap back to di Grassi, but an incredibly fast 2 tire stop wasn’t enough and next time round the lead read Senna 7.9 seconds ahead of di Grassi, who was 7.4 seconds ahead of Glock.
With nine laps to go it was never going to be enough, but Glock pulled out fastest lap after fastest lap as he pursued his rivals. It took only three laps for the German to get by a badly struggling di Grassi, but 14.1 seconds into five laps was a tough ask.
But further back the drivers had not lost their taste for mayhem: a fierce battle had broken out for the final points paying positions as Petrov was holding up countryman Mikhail Aleshin, Jimenez and Javier Villa. A reverse grid pole was on offer, but with positions changing lap after lap no one knew who was going to grab it.
Back at the front Senna had enough left in his tires to hold on for the win, five seconds ahead of a fast charging Glock, while di Grassi followed them home for his first podium in GP2.
Behind them Roldan Rodriguez drove an excellent race to finish in fourth position, ahead of Borja Garcia, Mikhail Aleshin, Sergio Jimenez and Javier Villa, while Kazuki Nakajima came out of the pits to set the fastest lap on the final one.
But all eyes were on Senna as he drank in the applause, and the champagne, in honor of his first win in the series: Glock may have been the faster man throughout the race, but the Arden strategy had the legs to top even that blistering pace.
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Bruno Senna Arden International 1h02:15.237
2. Timo Glock iSport International + 5.333
3. Lucas di Grassi ART Grand Prix + 29.210
4. Roldan Rodriguez Minardi Piquet Sports + 30.204
5. Borja Garcia Durango + 48.253
6. Mikhail Aleshin ART Grand Prix + 52.274
7. Sergio Jimenez Racing Engineering + 55.994
8. Javier Villa Racing Engineering + 56.815
9. Sakon Yamamoto BCN Competicion + 1:02.269
10. Vitaly Petrov Campos Grand Prix + 1:14.113
11. Ho-Pin Tung BCN Competicion + 1:15.050
12. C.Bakkerud DPR + 1:27.561
13. Kohei Hirate Trident Racing + 1:27.922
14. Andy Soucek DPR + 1:41.215
15. Kazuki Nakajima DAMS + 2 Laps
Fastest lap: Nakajima, 1:29.989 DNF
Driver Team On lap
Adrian Zaugg Arden International 21
Nicolas Lapierre DAMS 21
Pastor Maldonado Trident Racing 18
Antonio Pizzonia FMS International 11
Jason Tahinci FMS International 0
Karun Chandhok Durango 0
Alexandre Negrao Minardi Piquet Sports 0
Giorgio Pantano Campos Grand Prix 0
Mike Conway Super Nova International 0
Andreas Zuber iSport International 0
Luca Filippi Super Nova International 0