- GP2, Spanish Grand Prix, Race 1
Frijns takes maiden GP2 victory
Robin Frijns took his maiden GP2 victory in a thrilling feature race at the Spanish Grand Prix that also marked the first win for his team Hilmer Motorsport.
The Sauber reserve driver had a relatively straight-forward race after Marcus Ericsson retired from the lead on lap ten, but he did well to manage the gap to the chaos kicking off behind him. Felipe Nasr finished second ahead of Carlin team-mate Jolyon Palmer, but only after the pair had made contact and Sam Bird, who was in contention for a podium all race, was edged onto the grass by Palmer and spun off.
Frijns started from eighth on the grid but opted to pit as early as the rules allow on lap six in order to bolt on the longer-lasting hard compound tyre. Palmer did the same and it paid off for both drivers as they leapfrogged the order, albeit with the later-stopping Ericsson retaining the lead he had held from pole position.
Ericsson appeared to have pace to dictate the race, but in order to do so he had to pass slower drivers who had started on the hard tyre and had yet to pit. One of those drivers was Kevin Giovesi and as Ericsson went to pass him he was baulked and made contact with Bird in the final chicane.
It was at this stage that Frijns capitalised on the situation and took the lead, while damage to Ericsson's car saw him pull up on the pit straight and retire from the race. From that point onwards Frijns did not look back, and with Palmer directly behind him had a buffer to Bird, who was quicker than the Carlin but could not find a way past.
The battle for second continued until lap 33 when Nasr came through the pack with slightly fresher tyres than the cars in front and passed them both. Bird then seized the opportunity to try to pass Palmer but was hung out to dry around the outside of turn four and spun into the gravel and retired. Palmer then had Tom Dillmann and Jon Lancaster to deal with - the latter started 15th and worked his way through to fourth - but just about managed to hold on to the final podium place
Stefano Coletti finished fifth after running as high as second at the start, but lost out by staying on the soft tyre for too long. Tom Dillmann was sixth as he ran a unique strategy by using hard tyres in both stints. He could have been a contender for victory and decided to take on the unusual strategy - which leaves him with just soft tyres for the sprint race - when Nathanael Berthon flew over the back of his car and Sergio Canamassas's at turn 10 and nearly took him out of the race.
His advance on fresher rubber was first held up by Stephane Richelmi, who ran him wide at turn four and into the gravel, but he again recovered to challenge for a podium. He overtook Coletti around the outside of turn three on lap 35, Lancaster in the same spot on lap 36 and was attempting to take third from Palmer around the outside when he ran wide and dropped to sixth place where he eventually finished.
Alexander Rossi came home seventh after struggling with his tyres all race, while Kevin Ceccon took eighth, and with it pole position on the reverse-grid pole for Sunday's sprint race. Johnny Cecotto and Rio Haryanto rounded out the points-scoring places in ninth and tenth.
Championship challengers Fabio Leimer and James Calado made contact at the start when Calado tried to move into a gap that was always closing. The resulting damage forced Calado to retire and ruined Leimer's race.
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