Valsecchi clinches first AirAsia victory in Monaco
27 May 2011 – Italy’s Davide Valsecchi has picked up victory in Friday’s GP2 Feature Race on the streets of Monte Carlo. The win is the first for Tony Fernandes’ Team AirAsia, with series returnee Álvaro Parente and Luca Filippi completing the podium for Racing Engineering and Super Nova, correspondingly.
Half of the Valsecchi’s task was completed when the red lights went out, with pole man Sam Bird moving slowly from the grid. Avoidance from all other drivers proved successful, even though Parente and Stefano Coletti banged wheels in the process. After losing pole with a five-place penalty, Giedo van der Garde shot up to fourth position.
Having bogged down, Bird proceeded to set several fastest laps as Romain Grosjean also made up time from the back of the grid. Jules Bianchi soon moved into the top five by passing Josef Kral, only to run into the back van der Garde and cause pit-stops for both men.
Running longer before pitting, Filippi was a chief beneficiary, with Grosjean managing to seal a spectacular fourth place for DAMS. Coletti pitted on Lap 12, with Parente and Valsecchi covering the local driver one lap later. Behind, Bird’s strategy and rapid raw pace allowed for a rise to 11th place and fresh hope of finishing eighth to grab Saturday’s Sprint Race pole position.
However, all became disastrous for iSport as their two drivers collided once again, with Marcus Ericsson defending resolutely in the battle for tenth. Contact at final corner Anthony Noghes resulted in a touch with the wall, with more contact being made between the two cars on the run to Mirabeau - breaking Ericsson’s rear wing as well as puncturing Bird’s left-front tyre.
The inter-team squabble resulted in the deployment of the Safety Car, with Valsecchi able to retain his advantage from Parente, although the Portuguese did manage to claim Fastest Lap on the final circulation.
Saturday’s GP2 Sprint Race begins at 4:10pm local time (BST +1)