Maldonado almost Champion as Bird takes first win
11 September 2010 – Sam Bird has picked up his first ever GP2 race victory in Monza's Saturday Feature Race although it is Pastor Maldonado who is poised to be crowned the 2010 Champion despite being involved in a Rettifilo incident which involved his car climbing into the air; the title was practically sealed for the Venezuelan when rival Sergio Pérez came together with Michael Herck several minutes later.
Lights out and the ART pair had slow but solid starts: Bird was better placed for turn one and when Bianchi cut the corner slightly the lead was his. Behind them chaos was descending, with Alvaro Parente and Dani Clos cutting the kerb (for later drive-through penalties) ahead of a drag to the next chicane, where Luca Filippi ran too deep and took out Giedo van der Garde, prompting a safety car to clean up the mess.
Immediately at the restart 2 laps later Jerome d'Ambrosio thought he'd found Bianchi napping and ran outside him at turn one before being pushed wide, with the subsequent accordion affect at the tight corner causing Romain Grosjean to stop sharply: Maldonado had nowhere to go but over his wheel, with collisions behind them stopping team-mate Luiz Razia, Marcus Ericsson and Brendan Hartley, prompting another safety car period.
Straight after the next restart Bianchi outdragged Parente to regain P2 into the first chicane, but at the second one Michael Herck braked late and extinguished Perez's championship run against the tyre barrier: while technically there are 27 points remaining in the championship and the Mexican is the same number of points behind Maldonado, it will be more than difficult for him to win tomorrow from the back of the grid.
A lap later Venezuelan pitted to check for damage, with Christian Vietoris going for the early stop to push up the grid at the same time, but two laps later Maldonado was back in and mobbed by his team as he got out of the car, while on track the remaining drivers found space around them as they followed their pre-planned pit strategies.
At the end it was Bird who claimed the top step of the podium from team-mate Bianchi by 8.5 seconds, with Turvey driving another sensible race to join the ART pair upstairs. Behind them Vietoris' early stop paid dividends, pushing him up to fourth despite finishing the first lap in P12, with d'Ambrosio recovering to follow him home in fifth.
Trident drivers Adrian Zaugg and Edoardo Piscopo delighted their mechanics by finishing sixth and seventh respectively, just ahead of Max Chilton.
- Full Feature Race results
Sunday's Sprint Race begins at 10:35am local time on Sunday (BST +1)