Mitch Evans claimed his second GP2 feature race victory in succession after mastering an alternate strategy and holding off Stoffel Vandoorne and Jolyon Palmer on inferior rubber.
The 200th race of the GP2 series was fittingly a thriller from start to finish, with Evans emerging as a contender despite being on the medium rubber in the closing laps and winning by just four tenths. Having started 15th on the grid his longer stint on the softer rubber paid dividends but he had a slice of fortune late on with Vandoorne, who led from the first corner until his pit stop, amazingly misunderstanding a radio call from his team and thinking Evans still had to pit in the closing stages.
This meant Vandoorne, who on soft rubber looked likely to win the race, dropped back and held off championship leader Palmer, effectively wasting the advantage of his tyres when he needed to strike. Pole-sitter Palmer tried in vein to get past Vandoorne but had to settle for third, extending his championship lead over Felipe Nasr - who finished fifth - to 49 points.
- 1. Jolyon Palmer 164 pts
- 2. Felipe Nasr 115 pts
- 3. Johnny Cecotto 100 pts
- 4. Mitch Evans 92 pts
- 5. Stefano Coletti 79 pts
Vandoorne had beaten Evans off the line and into Turn 1 at the start, with Tom Dillmann's stalled Caterham somehow not being hit by the rest of the field in fourth. It soon became clear the soft tyre was not coping well in the searing heat and many opted to pit as soon as the window opened. Evans, Arthur Pic and Raffaele Marcellio opted to stay out, however, and the decision proved dividends as the trio sliced their way through the field. The latter pair pitted on lap 11 but, with it looking likely the two could challenge for a podium, they remarkably both stalled in their respective pit boxes. Both eventually got going but their races had been completely ruined, with Evans leapfrogging both and eventually pitting two laps later.
When Evans came out he was behind Stephane Richelmi, who had undercut him with an earlier stop, with Vandoorne 32 seconds up the track. After dispatching Richelmi, Evans was able to push in the middle part of the race on fresh medium rubber, with ART forced to pit Vandoorne earlier than planned on lap 25. When Vandoorne emerged from the pits marginally behind Evans but ahead of Palmer, it appeared the battle for victory would be with the man behind him. Russian Time even warned Evans over the radio that he was probably looking at a third-place finish at best. But Vandoorne was more concerned with Palmer behind as he thought the Kiwi had to pit again and, by the time he realised his error of judgement it was too late, and Evans held on in dramatic style.
The action was not limited to the podium contenders however, with Stefano Coletti emerging on top after a gripping battle with Nasr and Johnny Cecotto Jr for fourth. Coletti had been watching the championship contenders battling in front of him and passed both men when Cecotto ran into the gravel defending a move from Nasr. Cecotto recovered to the track but had to settle for fifth, a massive blow for his championship hopes.
Ferrari prospect Marciello may well have been in that battle had his engine not failed at his pit stop. The Swiss turned in the overtake of the race early on, sweeping past Cecotto on the outside of Turn 8 and making it stick all the way until Turn 10, but his late woe harshly dropped him to 17th after an impressive drive.
Today is a day that I will never ever forget. How we won today from 15th I don't know but the car was sensational to drive. YES!!!!— Mitch Evans (@mitchevans_) July 19, 2014