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Jules Bianchi stormed to victory at the opening-race of the 2011 GP2 Asia Series in Abu Dhabi this afternoon. The Lotus Art driver took the lead from Romain Grosjean as the lights went out, and was able to match his compatriot throughout the race, before pulling away substantially in the closing laps.
The start of the race failed to pass without incident, as Luiz Razia and Dani Clos collided heavily before making turn one. Racing Engineering driver Clos stalled his car on the grid, with Razia unable to avoid the Spaniard, taking off into the wall. Pal Varhaug was also a victim of the incident, being forced to retire for his DAMS team.
After a long clean-up procedure, the race got back underway with Bianchi leading from Grosjean at the restart. A succession of strong laps kept Grosjean in contention at the front, but a mistake from the Frenchman saw his early efforts hindered. Despite added pressure, Bianchi was able to hold onto the lead as the race progressed.
Markus Ericsson briefly took the lead when the pit-stop phase arrived, although Bianchi remained in control of the race. Grosjean picked up his pace and was able to apply pressure once again, putting in a strong performance at the front of the field. Despite this, he was unable to find a way into the lead in his DAMS machinery.
A final lap overtaking manoeuvre from Marcus Ericsson moved the Swedish driver up to fourth, after disposing of Giedo van der Garde. Bianchi finished the race almost seven seconds clear at the front, after a strong sequence of laps to end the race. Davide Valsecchi finished in third place, making the rostrum for Team AirAsia.
Saturday's Sprint Race begins at 5.05pm local time (GMT +4)
GP2 Asia Series
|1.||J. Bianchi||Lotus ART||1:22:04.643|
|3.||D. Valsecchi||Team Air Asia||+12.794|
|5.||G. van der Garde||Barwa Addax||+15.198|
|9.||C. Pic||Barwa Addax||+37.411|
|GP2 Asia series: Abu Dhabi 2011|
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|12 Feb '11||Latest GP2 Asia photos: Saturday at Yas Marina|
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|11 Feb '11||Valsecchi thrilled with podium finish|
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|GP2 Asia Series|
|12 Jul '11||GP2 merges Main and Asia Series|
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|20 Mar '11||Grosjean ‘over the moon’ after title win|
|20 Mar '11||Penalties for Grosjean and Cecotto|
|20 Mar '11||Clos praises team's performance|
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