In support of the Formula 1 and following eleven rounds of their 2013 season, the GP2 is classed as one of the biggest Single-Seater championships in the world. As a major stepping stone for drivers aspiring to be in F1, a championship win in the category can certainly boost the chances of being one of the twenty-two in F1 for the next season. Competing on the Grand Prix circuits has been a huge opportunity for the drivers to experience a Grand Prix environment and to take advantage of the infrastructure in place for a Formula One event.
For the fifth round of the 2013 season, the British Grand Prix and Silverstone was the venue for races nine and ten, on the 29th and 30th June. With a packed grid of twenty-six drivers, spread over thirteen teams, the 2013 GP2 season has been full of drama and seen plenty of action at the previous rounds in Malaysia, Bahrain, Spain and Monaco. Heading for the British Grand Prix weekend, it was Monegasque driver Stefano Coletti who led the way on 120 points, after taking three wins and plenty of podium places. Driving for Italian team Rapax, Coletti was in his third year of GP2 and looking a lot more at ease with the series after years not much success since 2011. Coletti closest rival before the fifth round was Brazilian Felipe Nasr. With no wins in 2013 but plenty of podiums, the Brazilin was twenty-four points behind Coletti but has plenty of experience on the Silverstone circuit. After two years in British F3, that brought him title success in 2011, Nasr has been in GP2 since 2012 driving for British team Carlin for 2013. The partnership with Carlin has helped boost his chances of the championship in GP2 and the two are no strangers of success; as of claiming the British F3 title in 2011. The leading British contender approaching Silverstone was 26 year old Sam Bird. Driving for brand new team RUSSAIN TIME, Sam had already taken two wins so far, but he unfortunately found himself 62 points behind Coletti. After taking a year out of GP2 in 2012, Sam has had three years’ experience in the series, but has only ever taken three wins, his first in 2010. With plenty years of single seater racing in various championships, the knowledge of Silverstone should help the young Brit in moving forward and starting a drive to real in Coletti at the top.
British Glory for GP2 Saturday
The qualifying session on the 28th June was in very tricky conditions, as the whole of Friday was a washout at the British GP and saw Marcus Ericsson take the front row spot of the GP2 feature race. With the feature race of 29 laps/60minutes taking place on Saturday, the weather had improved and it looked like a foreign summer. With Ericsson being able to tackle the wet weather conditions, things were looking up for him with the track a lot drier for Saturday; however alongside was Sam Bird, a fiery Brit ready to win in front of the home fans.
In the hot temperatures, it was Bird who looked slightly hot flushed off the line as he lost out to Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, but as Nasr challenged Ericsson for the lead, it didn’t take Bird long to move pass. With the race focused heavily on pit stops, Bird wanted to pull away fast, with Championship leader Stefano Coletti chasing hard, followed by Stephane Richelmi, Mitch Evans and James Calado.
Sam Bird continued to pull away at the front and on lap seven, the Englishmen dived into the pits, with many of his competitors already making the jump on lap six. Covering the move of his rivals, Bird hoped the extra lap on older tyres will jump him ahead and back into the lead on the latter few laps. With plenty of drivers not stopping, Bird re-joined behind these runners and started to find chances to pass very difficult. The leader at the stops was Stephane Richelmi before he made his stop and was behind fellow countryman Coletti, with all these runners pushing for the victory or at least a podium.
Another runner who got involved in the battle with Richelmi was 2012 GP3 Champion Mitch Evans. The Arden International driver also found his team mate Johnny Cecotto fighting with Richelmi. As the three battled hard, pushing one another and swapping places, Evans race for a strong top ten result was ended by a stop-go penalty. The stewards deemed that Evans had sped in the pit lane and needed to take the penalty soon to avoid further punishment. With Evans penalised and Cecotto pitting, Richelmi was freed to chase down the front runners and close in for the lead.
The pit stops strategies were coming into play in the closing laps; with Sam Bird inheriting the lead after seeing his team mate Tom Dillmann make his stop. For Frenchman Dillmann, the late pit stop and fresher rubber worked in his favour, as he had no problems passing his rivals. The final task for him was pushing Coletti for the final podium spot, who had seen Stephane Richelmi blast pass on lap nineteen to take second off him. With Dillmann applying a lot of pressure, Coletti locked up at Club and overshot the corner. The mistake was easy pickings for the Frenchman and he moved onto the podium position, joining his team mate Sam Bird, who was easily on course for victory. For the championship leader Coletti, losing the podium wasn’t his worse moment as only a few corners later, on the next lap, Coletti was hit by Fabio Leimer around the loop section. The coming together between the two resulted in Leimer taking fourth and Coletti retiring at that point with heavy damage to his GP2 machine.
With Lewis Hamilton taking pole position for Sunday’s F1 British Grand Prix only about an hour before, the moment of victory for Sam Bird brought plenty of cheer to the ecstatic Silverstone crowd and to top the moment off, everyone was on their feet when Sam did his victory lap. His dominant run to victory by 2.4 seconds in the first GP2 race was a boost to the rest of the weekend, especially as this race was the opening one of the whole weekend, with GP3, Porsche Supercup and the F1 left, all featuring plenty of British talents.
GP2, British GP, Silverstone Race One Top Ten:
1. S. Bird (11) = 29 laps – 51:32.250
2. S. Richelmi (2) = +2.427
3. T. Dillmann (12) = +12.052
4. F. Leimer (8) = +13.888
5. J. Lancaster (23) = +14.782
6. J. Palmer (10) = +18.762
7. R. Haryanto (17) = +19.734
8. J. Leal (7) = +20.365
9. J. Calado (3) = +26.626
10. A. Rossi (15) = +30.352
After the race, there were penalties applied to runners within the top ten, as Alexander Rossi and Fabio Leimer were given grid drops for the sprint race on Sunday. Rossi’s penalty of a ten place grid drop was in relation to a collision with Kevin Ceccon, where the Italian was unable to rejoin the race. The same penalty applied to Fabio Leimer, after the Swiss driver was penalised for contact with Stefano Coletti, as they were approaching Turn 4. The forceful move on Coletti was deemed to be too aggressive and unfortunately saw the Championship leader score a DNF. The aftermath of the penalties saw Leimer start from fifteenth whilst Rossi would start from twentieth.
More British Glory in GP2 on Sunday
With the second GP2 race of the weekend being the sprint race, no pits stops strategies were required, so the field had fifteen laps to the finish, with Julian Leal and Rio Haryanto lining up on the front row. From the lights, the two at the front struggled to get away and were beating into turn one by Jon Lancaster. The Brit was joined by fellow countryman James Calado, where he pushed from eighth to third, to sit right on the tail of Haryanto. As the field all followed suit and were mostly bunched up, the race saw its first incident at the second corner, with Stephane Richelmi and Jolyon Palmer getting a bit to close and having a collision. Both continued on after the collision but were heavily affected and well out of contention. The incident must have taken its toll on Palmer as by lap thirteen, the MSV sponsored Brit retired from the race, being the fifth person to score a DNF in the race.
With the field held up in the incident and others struggling with wrong tyre choice, Jon Lancaster took full advantage at the front, lapping quicker than Haryanto and pulled clear early on. The leading three were in a small breakaway group, whilst a pack bunched up behind, battling for fourth. Pole sitter Julian Leal sat in fourth, with a group consisting of Dillmann, Ericsson, and Bird chasing hard, pursuing a podium finish. The one to watch was especially race one winner Sam Bird. Looking for a boost from the home crown, the RUSSIAN TIME driver was right on Marcus Ericsson’s rear wing. The Englishman got his moment to move past as Ericsson mistimed a move on a slowing Sergio Canamasas, allowing Bird to slip passed. With the tyres playing a factor, Bird was able to slip pass his team mate and settle in fifth place.
As the sprint race was heavily affected by tyre choice, one driver who was benefiting from the right selection was Carlin driver Felipe Nasr. The Brazilian was moving through the field quickly and with a few laps remaining, he was chasing Ericsson hard. With Ericsson quickly dispatched, Nasr moved in on Dillmann but the Frenchman defended hard, with the two racing very close on the final lap. The pressure of Nasr slightly fazed the Frenchman and around Club corner, Nasr got a run. With plenty of run-off area before the flag, Dillmann used every bit of the road available and crossed the line just ahead by 0.108 seconds to secure sixth.
The victory for Jon Lancaster and the Hilmer Motorsport team with a dominating performance was a massive delight for the home crowd and the perfect result, making Sam Bird’s victory in race one. To score a victory in any series on home soil is always brilliant but for Lancaster it was an even more special win, as this was his first ever win in GP2. For the home crowd there were more moments to cheer as British driver James Calado took third for ART Grand Prix.
GP2, British GP, Silverstone Race Two Top Ten:
1. J. Lancaster (23) = 21 laps – 37:19.528
2. R. Haryanto (17) = +6.513
3. J. Calado (3) = +7.922
4. J. Leal (7) = +8.420
5. S. Bird (11) = +9.348
6. T. Dillmann (12) = +14.563
7. F. Nasr = +14.671
8. M. Ericsson = +15.321
9. A. Rossi = 15.877
10. S. Coletti = 18.789
As the British GP was over and for the GP2 it was a successful weekend for the British drivers on home soil, the focus now turns for round six in Germany. With the famous Nurburgring circuit hosting what should be another two epic races on the 5th-7th July, the fight for the GP2 title has certainly closed up at the top. Monegasque driver Stefano Coletti continues to lead at the top but after what could be said a disastrous weekend, the gap between him and Brazilian Felipe Nasr has degraded. Coletti lies on 120 points approaching Germany whilst Nasr has only 22 to make up, as he sits on 98 points. After victory in race one, RUSSIAN TIME driver Sam Bird has climbed into third, on 89 points, ahead of Fabio Leimer (66 points) and Brit James Calado (52 points) who round out the top five.
In the teams Championship, British team Carlin sit at the top of the standings on 139 points, with drivers Felipe Nasr and Jolyon Palmer continuing to score consistently, with Nasr of course a leading contender for the title. Behind Carlin in the standings are Sam Bird’s team RUSSIAN TIME, who are only seven adrift on 132 points. With Bird and Tom Dillmann scoring regularly in the top ten, RUSSIAN TIME are a huge threat to Carlin’s grip on the Teams Championship. Rounding out the top five in the standings are Rapax (Coletti and Trummer) on 128, Racing Engineering (Leal and Leimer) on 88 and finally Hilmer Motorsport (Frijns and Lancaster) on 83.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs.