Rossi wins in Abu Dhabi, Leimer crowned champion

USA's Alexander Rossi celebrates race win

USA's Alexander Rossi converted yesterday’s pole to today’s win, but not without a fight: the American had to scrap his way back past Jolyon Palmer to take his maiden Series victory, but most eyes were trained on the fight behind them where Fabio Leimer lost a podium finish to Marcus Ericsson but had enough points in the bag to grab the 2013 GP2 Series title.

The action exploded right from the start, where front row starter and title contender Sam Bird stalled on the grid just as the lights went out: Rossi was slow off the line as Leimer and Palmer blew past the pair, and with the Swiss driver’s eyes on a bigger prize he gave way to the Briton at turn one, with the American making up for lost time by sliding inside Leimer at turn two before heading off after the race leader.

From left – Palmer (2nd), Rossi (1st) and Ericsson (3rd)

A safety car period for a collision between Jon Lancaster and Tom Dillmann delayed their charge for a few laps, but when they were eventually released the front pair resumed their fight while Leimer held third comfortably from Dani Clos, Felipe Nasr and Ericsson, while Racing Engineering watched Bird fight back through the field and worked out the championship ramifications for their man.

The soft shod cars started coming in from lap 6, with Leimer the most notable early stopper on lap 10, but with most of his rivals on the medium compound there was more maths to be done on the pitwall as the teams worked out the difference in time on track plus an estimate for the stops to come, with Leimer slicing through traffic to fulfill his part of the bargain.

Rossi pitted from second on lap 18 for rears only, setting a blistering pace on his out lap and forcing Palmer to come in two laps later to cover him off, the team changing four tires to be conservative, only to be heartbroken seconds later as Rossi screamed past into the lead: the Briton threw everything at his rival, but when the clock ran out it was Rossi who was greeted by the checkered flag first, with Palmer next across the line.

Behind them Leimer had fought off a hard charging Ericsson for lap after lap, but eventually gave way with his eye on a bigger prize: the Swede was delighted to grab another podium finish as Leimer crossed the line in fourth, his points lead now untouchable. Clos held off a late race charge for fifth from James Calado, who powered by Nasr and Johnny Cecotto in the closing stages, with Daniel Abt holding on for P9 (from P25 on the grid) from Bird, who had thrown everything he had at the race for his championship tilt but just fallen short.

Leimer’s 191 points claims the 2013 title from Bird on 173 points, with Nasr on 154, Calado on 142 and Coletti on 135 points. The team’s title is still in the balance with just tomorrow’s sprint race remaining: Carlin leads RUSSIAN TIME by 273 points to 265, with Racing Engineering on 253 points ahead of DAMS on 220.

Rossi, Palmer and Ericsson discuss their race

GP2 Series: Alexander, you were dreaming of it yesterday, and now you’ve got your first win in GP2: how does it feel?

Alexander Rossi: It’s amazing! It was very emotional on the podium, but we did such a good job this weekend to get this: Jolyon and Carlin were really strong, their ability to look after tires was a little bit better than us today as mine went off 3 or 4 laps before his, so we had to make a call. We had to think about where we look for another podium tomorrow or go for glory today, and that’s what we did. The safety car didn’t help us, to be honest, because it gave him a chance to cool off his tires which we needed, and I thought it was going to be a bit of a fight, but we made a good restart and then held him off. I am very, very relieved that we got it done, and as I said yesterday we can go to the off-season now knowing that we can do it.

GP2 Series: You did have to do it tough of course, having a bit of a slow start and having to fight back, and use a good strategy: was this the planned strategy, or did it move during the race?

Alexander: To be honest leaving the pitlane it seemed like the super softs were fine, but we started on the primes and just tried our best to get far enough so we could go to a prime/option strategy if we could, but it was either go from second and hope you get on the podium again tomorrow, or stay on the prime and guarantee one today, so that’s what we did. The main thing was the start: it was better than Singapore and Monza, but that’s not what it needs to be so we’ll keep working on that. But otherwise, we couldn’t ask for anything more.

GP2 Series: What does the win mean for you and the team, after the season just gone?

Alexander: It’s a big confidence booster for everybody: we’ve had some good moments but the season has been a bit disjointed, and we missed a lot of testing, the first five weekends or so we had pace sometimes that we didn’t really understand, and then no pace that we didn’t understand, so we worked a lot over the summer break and then in Monza we went better, and in Singapore, so it shows that it’s working: we don’t have the strongest car yet, but it’s a step in the right direction.

GP2 Series: Congratulations today on P2, although I suspect you were looking for a bit more: how was the race from your seat?

Jolyon Palmer: It was pretty good, although yeah, I was definitely hoping to win: we had everything in place to do it, the style was really good, the pace on the first set of primes was really good and I managed to pull out from Rossi: I think the only thing we got wrong was the strategy, and we needed to pit earlier for the options and then could have won today and still had tires for tomorrow. So it’s disappointing that we messed up a bit on that, but overall the car was good, and I’m happy with this podium.

GP2 Series: They only had to stop for 2 tires, while you had to change all 4: did this make a difference, or was that just an additional issue?

Jolyon: That helped [them], but in the end we didn’t have much to gain by trying to eke out one more lap: we should have just come in to make sure it was covered, and I saw Rossi on the big screens coming in and I thought we should just come in to cover, but we stayed out one more lap and got jumped. It was a mistake, and it’s probably cost us a win, but we’ve got tires for tomorrow and he doesn’t…

GP2 Series: And you’ve still got a live fight in the teams’ championship: are you thinking of that at all?

Jolyon: I’d like to win it, and it’s been a good race for us with both me and Felipe in the points, while RUSSIAN TIME had a bit of bad one with no points, so the aim for me is to try and help Carlin win that, and from seventh on the grid to have a go and getting another podium.

GP2 Series: Marcus, congratulations on P3: after the difficult session yesterday, does this make up for it a bit?

Marcus Ericsson: Yeah, definitely! I was really, really disappointed with what happened yesterday: I did a mega lap and was on pole position, and I thought it was really hard to take that away from me and put me in P12 for 10 centimeters difference on the track, but that’s how it is and there’s not much you can do. So I accepted it, and went into the race today really, really determined to show everyone what I can do: like yesterday, the team gave me a really good car so I could make a strong race, we had a good strategy and I managed to save the tires really well, and the boys in the pitstop did a really good job. All in all it was a really good race, and I’m really happy to bounce back from P12 and to be on the podium.

GP2 Series: You had a nice few fights towards the end, and it looked like the car was handling the tires well: how were they today?

Marcus: It was good, and we picked a bit of a different strategy today because we wanted to try something that not many others would do, so we obviously ran the prime tires from the start and did a really long first stint, and I focused a lot on keeping them alive so we could make them work for longer. We needed them to go at least 20 laps, and it is tough to pace yourself and not push them too hard, but I did well and the tires lasted well, and before my pitstop we were on really competitive lap times. When we pitted obviously we had the option tires on, and they worked really well: I managed to overtake Dani and started to catch Fabio really quick, and then we had the safety car which was good because it gave me a good shot to take more positions. I managed to do a really nice move on Fabio, and in the end it worked out great.

GP2 Series: I think you still have a good set for tomorrow’s race: can you do anything there?

Marcus: Yeah, we’ve got a brand new set of mediums tomorrow, so I will go for another podium!

Abu Dhabi – Feature Race

Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1 Alexander Rossi (USA) Caterham 1h00m16.414s
2 Jolyon Palmer (UK) Carlin +2.130s
3 Marcus Ericsson DAMS +3.075s
4 Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering +4.687s
5 Dani Clos MP +5.218s
6 James Calado ART +6.370s
7 Felipe Nasr Carlin +8.873s
8 Johnny Cecotto Jr Arden +12.142s
9 Daniel Abt ART +13.102s
10 Sam Bird Russian Time +13.568s
11 Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Hilmer +14.852s
12 Sergio Canamasas Caterham +15.896s
13 Simon Trummer Rapax +15.919s
14 Rio Haryanto Addax +19.021s
15 Rene Binder Lazarus +19.229s
16 Julian Leal Racing Engineering +21.039s
17 Gianmarco Raimondo Trident +23.308s
18 Nathanael Berthon Trident +1 lap*
19 Stefano Coletti Rapax +1 lap*
20 Daniel de Jong MP +1 lap*
21 Jake Rosenzweig Addax +3 laps*
DNF Mitch Evans Arden 22 laps
DNF Vittorio Ghirelli Lazarus 9 laps
DNF Stephane Richelmi DAMS 1 lap
DNF Tom Dillmann Russian Time 0 laps
DNF Jon Lancaster Hilmer 0 laps

Fastest Lap: Jolyon Palmer (Carlin) – 1:52.873 on lap 22

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