Bird seals dominant Feature Race win
24 August 2013 – Sam Bird took a resounding victory in Saturday afternoon's GP2 Feature Race at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the Russian Time driver controlling from start to finish and crossing the line seven seconds ahead of DAMS rival Marcus Ericsson. Caterham reserve Alexander Rossi completed the podium positions.
Bird made a solid start as the lights went out, with James Calado pressuring him into La Source after a great getaway from fourth on the grid. Jolyon Palmer, Ericsson and Rossi diced three abreast on the run down to Eau Rouge, but despite having to negotiate slippery conditions following an earlier rain shower, the entire field completed the first lap without any major incidents.
The Safety Car was called out on Lap 4 following a major crash for Daniël de Jong at Eau Rouge, the Dutchman’s battered car becoming the first victim of the race at the fearsome high-speed chicane. In a move reminiscent of Mark Webber’s successful pass on Fernando Alonso in 2011, the MP Motorsport man tried to sweep across the Addax car of Rio Haryanto on entry, but squeezed too forcefully and punctured his left-rear tyre on the Indonesian’s front wing. Having lost control mid corner, he became a passenger, spinning round and sliding into the barriers at the top of the hill.
At the restart, Bird got the jump on Calado and proceeded to pull out another comfortable advantage at the front of the field. A major event in the championship battle came in the form of a late dive by Felipe Nasr on team-mate Palmer, with the two collecting each other at Turn 1. Nasr, second in the standings before the race, was unable to continue, allowing current leader Stefano Coletti to capitalise.
The Rapax driver had already made his way up to sixth after starting from 20th, but a slow pit-stop saw him lose out to Calado on the run down to Eau Rouge, the Briton sweeping past on warmer tyres having pitted earlier in the race after suffering from excessive wear rates. As Coletti backed out in order to avoid a protracted battle, Dani Clos misjudged his closing speed and knocked the front wing off his MP Motorsport machine after hitting the back of the championship leader’s car, the latter dropping back with damage to the rear.
Back up front, Bird had been pumping in fastest laps throughout the race, and made his stop with 11 laps remaining, emerging from the pit lane to a clear track both in front and behind. It was Rapax’s Simon Trummer who held the lead until the penultimate lap, with the Swiss driver leaving it until the last possible moment to make his compulsory stop in an attempt to clinch pole for Sunday's reverse grid race.
Despite quickly closing in, Bird made no attempt to pass with the result already sewn up. Once released by Trummer, the long-time Mercedes tester brought his car home safely to claim a fourth win of the season and kick-start his championship charge.
Much further down the road, Ericsson held off an advancing Rossi to take second, with Fabio Leimer and Tom Dillmann completing the top five. Julián Leal finished in sixth, ahead of Stéphane Richelmi and Calado. Robin Frijns led home Hilmer Motorsport team-mate Adrian Quaife-Hobbs to round out the top ten runners.
Coletti wound up down in 13th, unable to profit from Nasr’s retirement.
Sunday's Sprint Race in Belgium starts at 10.35am local time (GMT +2)