Grosjean claims Race 1 victory in Imola
|2.||G. van der Garde||+14.349|
19 March 2011 – Romain Grosjean has taken his first win of season in Imola this afternoon, with the Frenchman comfortably leading home the rest of the GP2 Asia Series field. Closest title rival Jules Bianchi finished in third place, meaning Grosjean now leads the championship standings ahead of tomorrow's title-deciding Sprint Race.
A clean getaway for Grosjean ensured that he would lead into the first corner, with fellow front row starter Sam Bird struggling at the wheel of his iSport International when the five red lights went on. The Briton would slip to eighth soon after, with Giedo van der Garde claiming second position. Luiz Razia caused the biggest Lap 1 drama, as the Team AirAsia went straight off the circuit leading to a premature retirement.
Bianchi struggled to cope with the front running pace during the opening stages, with Joylon Palmer and Bird chasing closely. The 2009 F3 Euro Series champion began to pick up his pace however, and went on to overtake Josef Král who was occupying fourth. Drama ensued for Bird just behind, with the 24-year-old being forced to retire on lap 7.
The lead remained unchanged when the pit stop phase was over, with Grosjean still setting the pace up front. He was able to extend his gap back to van der Garde, with Bianchi closing in on the Dutch driver after getting the jump on Michael Herck. Stefano Coletti was on a mission in sixth place for Trident Racing, continuing his fight through the field from 16th place on the grid.
As the race entered its final laps, Bianchi was unable to make further inroads into the gap van der Garde was holding in front, with the pair following Grosjean home in what was a decisive race for the championship battle. The title-battle remains wide open ahead of the season finale tomorrow, but Grosjean now holds the firm advantage.
Herck finished just off the rostrum for Scuderia Coloni in fourth place, followed closely by Monaco's Coletti who was able to gain one more place before the finish. Abu Dhabi podium visitor Davide Valsecchi drove to sixth, with Fabio Leimer and Dani Clos the last of the points scorers seventh and eighth respectively.
Sunday’s Sprint Race begins at 2pm local time (GMT +1)