Lapierre dominates Spa feature race
Nicolas Lapierre has claimed his second win of the season in race one at the Circuit Spa Francorchamps, controlling the field from pole position to finish almost five seconds ahead of Luca Filippi, with Lucas di Grassi a further three seconds back in third position.
The win was a balm for the genial Frenchman after a troubled season, which has seen him well out of the championship fight, in which di Grassi took a large bite out of Timo Glock's lead today by claiming another podium finish after the German stalled at the start of the race.
When the lights went out the front row starters Lapierre and Filippi got away decently but di Grassi was much faster, storming up between the pair into La Source: Lapierre had the inside line and was safe, but Filippi was left with nowhere to go but wide, handing track position to di Grassi and Adam Carroll, who had powered up with the Brazilian from seventh on the grid.
But behind them Bruno Senna, Andi Zuber, Glock and Kazuki Nakajima were all languishing in their grid positions, forcing their teams to swarm out and push them back into the pits to get restarted, while Giorgio Pantano didn't get much further as a clutch problem forced him to stop halfway around the circuit.
Despite di Grassi's best efforts Lapierre led the field across the line first time around, with Carroll and Filippi pushing hard as Vitaly Petrov was holding up Xandi Negrao, Javier Villa, Ho-pin Tung and Sebastien Buemi behind them. As close as the field was behind the Russian no one was able to get by other than Villa a few laps later: he was soon on a charge after the first four drivers, but they had already disappeared up the road.
Mike Conway was sitting at the back of the gaggle in tenth and took the opportunity to come in early for his pitstop before coming out in fresh air: the move worked out well, moving the Briton up through the field as everyone came out behind him, until lap 6 when Carroll and Filippi stopped, the Italian taking on 2 tyres to Carroll's 4 to leapfrog the Ulsterman in the stop.
Next time round it was the race leaders Lapierre and di Grassi who came in together, the Brazilian right on the Frenchman's tail after a fierce battle on track. Di Grassi's pits were at the top of the pitlane and his mechanics were hard at work before Lapierre even stopped, but the Frenchman was just able to put his nose out in front as he exited the pit, and they both came out just ahead of Filippi.
Filippi was clearly happy with his new tyres, as was Lapierre: the Frenchman dropped di Grassi immediately out of the pits, with Filippi getting a huge tow up the hill and for the long, long straight before cutting inside and through di Grassi for second, with Carroll also taking the opportunity to get by a few corners later, pushing the title challenger back to fourth in the process.
Meanwhile Glock was having a torrid time at the back of the field: he was showing the pace that eluded him in qualifying, but it was never going to be enough to work his way through the field. The only chance the German had for a point was fastest lap, and he was clearly pushing for it, but Senna had been clearly faster in free practice and qualifying and had a spare set of tyres.
However, Senna was soon out of the fastest lap contest after getting well wide at turn thirteen, slamming sideways into the wall and retirement on lap eleven. Glock was soon setting a string of fastest laps and, when Nakajima stopped on track a few laps later, it looked like he was going to be able to salvage a point, at least.
Meanwhile at the front Lapierre was slowly but surely easing away from Filippi, who was somewhat more preoccupied by the sight of Carroll filling his mirrors: the Ulsterman had picked up his pace and was harrying the Italian all round the track, but Filippi was unruffled, driving good clean lines to deny Carroll the chance to take a look. And so it continued for lap after lap until Carroll just touched the inside kerb on the long run up to the new Bus Stop, snapping himself into a spin and the wall nearby, undoing all the good work he'd done to put himself in a podium position.
Which meant that Lapierre was able to comfortably win the race ahead of Filippi and the newly promoted di Grassi, with Villa fourth after a strong drive to deny Conway the position. Behind then Negrao dropped out of sixth on the last lap with a mechanical gremlin, handing the place to an overjoyed Andy Soucek to bring home the first points of the year for DPR, just ahead of Karun Chandhok, who survived a collision with Buemi at La Source to finish seventh ahead of Ho-pin Tung, who collected his first point in the series and pole for tomorrow's race.
With Glock claiming the point for fastest lap he did all he could to mitigate the damage caused at the start, but now goes into race two just six points ahead of di Grassi in the championship table, 79 to 73, while Filippi solidified his third place in the championship on 58 points. But all 3 of them were put in the shade by the little Frenchman from Magny Cours, who didn't put a wheel wrong to claim the win ahead of them all today.
Pos Driver Team Time/Behind
1. Lapierre DAMS 53:01.842
2. Filippi Super Nova + 4.836
3. Di Grassi ART + 7.994
4. Villa Racing Engineering + 08.782
5. Conway Super Nova + 17.157
6. Soucek DPR + 29.016
7. Chandhok Durango + 30.418
8. Tung BCN Competicion + 31.899
9. Petrov Campos + 42.753
10. Buemi ART + 48.106
11. Niemela BCN Competicion + 48.665
12. Bakkerud DPR + 57.134
13. Zaugg Arden + 1:02.351
14. Tahinci FMS + 1:08.875
15. Rodriguez Minardi + 1:13.823
16. Garcia Durango + 1:15.661
17. Glock iSport + 1:30.586
Zuber iSport 25
Negrao Minardi 24
Risatti Trident 23
Carroll FMS 19
Nakajima DAMS 17
Martinez Racing Engineering 16
Senna Arden 11
Pantano Campos 0
Hirate Trident 0
Fastest lap: Timo Glock, 1:58.572