Valsecchi dominates Bahrain Feature Race
21 April 2012 – Davide Valsecchi has driven a commanding lights-to-flag victory in the first GP2 race of the weekend in Bahrain, leading home Luiz Razia and Sauber F1 reserve driver Estefan Gutiérrez. It was a bittersweet affair for reigning Champions DAMS, as Felipe Nasr was taken out by the Addax of Johnny Cecotto Jr.
When the lights went out, Valsecchi made the perfect start and kept the lead from Gutiérrez. Further down, Cecotto made his way to P3 whilst Razia moved up from eighth on the grid to P5, sneaking in behind Nasr. From then on, Valsecchi pulled away and started to build up a gap that none of his closest rivals could ever reduce.
James Calado was the first of the top ten drivers to pit, on Lap 8. On-track, Razia was on a mission and passed Nasr for P4 at Turn 1. At the front, Valsecchi was already 6.4 seconds ahead of Gutiérrez, so the Mexican decided to pit and so did Razia, but a problem on the Lotus’ right-rear tyre meant that, when he rejoined the track, had dropped behind Calado, Razia and Max Chilton (who had pitted one lap earlier).
When Valsecchi pitted on Lap 13, he handed the lead to Fabio Leimer, but the Italian was back in control of the pack a lap later when the Racing Engineering man re-entered the pits. Nathanaël Berthon, then in P2 and who still had to take his mandatory pit-stop, was much slower than his pursuers and Chilton - the closest contender – was eager to pass him, but it was Calado who took advantage of the battle in front of him to sneak ahead of the pair.
The battle for P6 intensified and ended in tears for Nasr and Cecotto; the two cars collided and stopped on-track, calling for a Safety Car period. Valsecchi’s effort to build a comfortable gap of 11.4 seconds has been reduced to nothing and at the restart he pulled away again from Calado. The British rookie started to struggle on his tyres and it became more and more difficult to fend off Razia’s attacks; the Brazilian finally got through to claim P2.
In response, Valsecchi pushed even harder and set the fastest lap. Chilton and Gutiérrez also overtook Calado and started a fight of their own for P3 that lasted until the last lap; the Carlin racer tried with all his might to block the Lotus man, but Gutiérrez eventually passed in a gutsy move to step onto the podium.
At the chequered flag, Valsecchi crossed the finish line ahead of Razia and Gutiérrez. Chilton was fourth ahead of Calado. Tom Dillmann - from 15th on the grid - was sixth and scored his first points in GP2, a just reward for a fantastic race from the French rookie. Leimer was seventh ahead of Fabio Onidi, Rio Haryanto and Brendon Hartley, the latter who had started from last on today’s grid. Onidi will start from tomorrow’s Sprint Race from the reverse pole position.
The Sprint Race begins at 10:35am local time (BST +2) on Sunday