Wickens wins dramatic first race at Spa
28 August 2010 – Robert Wickens has not given up on title hopes: starting from pole position, he managed to keep the lead after having damaged his nose cone under torrential downpour and took the win after the clock counted down. Series leader Esteban Gutiérrez having finished fifth, the Canadian can still hope to chase the Mexican for the GP3 Series title.
The Race 1 at Spa started with a bang: while Wickens pulled away from pole at the starting lights keeping Adrian Quaife-Hobbs at bay, Josef Newgarden stalled on the grid and mayhem ensued. Doru Sechelariu was the first casualty having to swerve to avoid the stranded Carlin car and ending up in the start/finish straight wall.
At the same time, Status GP’s Daniel Morad and Tech 1 Racing’s Stefano Coletti then collided going into turn one, only for Morad to then clash with Addax Team’s Pablo Sanchez Lopez. Atech CRS GP’s Vittorio Ghirelli and Manor Racing’s Adrian Tambay were next to spin and the first safety car of the race was deployed for the next lap.
At the restart on lap three, leaders Wickens and Quaife-Hobbs pulled away with Merhi holding on to third spot having benefitted from the start mayhem and moving up from 11th on the grid. But by lap 4 of the 12 lap race the heavens opened and what was a damp track became drenched in seconds.
Gutiérrez, already 15th from having started 27th on the grid, was first to pit for wet tyres on lap five, a strategy that prove to be a smart move. Race leader Wickens opted to keep going on slicks only to spin along the start and finish straight. The Canadian hit the wall and damaged the front of his car but managed to rejoin.
Meanwhile Renger van der Zande and Antonio Felix da Costa clashed at the entrance to turn one ending both of their races. Whilst van der Zande limped away, Felix da Costa was hit by a spinning Ivan Lukashevich. More chaos came with many cars struggling to stay on track and the safety car was deployed.
Wickens was still leading the shortened pack ahead of Leonardo Cordiero and Pal Varhaug then in tow, Gutiérrez in seventh. With thirty seconds left on the clock, the safety car came in. The Status racer at a slow pace headed for the finish line and passed the chequered flag with no seconds left on the clock, scoring a precious win to keep his title hopes alive. Even a last move that gave him fifth place, Gutiérrez could not claim the crown today.
Wickens has closed the championship gap on Gutiérrez by eight points and is now 22 points behind the Mexican with 27 points still up for grabs. Nico Müller’s championship hopes ended after he finished the race in seventh spot.
Race 2 in Belgium begins at 9:25am on Sunday (BST +1)