• GP2, Monaco Grand Prix, Race 1

Valsecchi wins dramatic feature race

ESPNF1 Staff
May 27, 2011
Davide Valsecchi celebrates giving Team Air Asia its maiden win © Sutton Images
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Davide Valsecchi won an incident-filled feature race in Monaco, giving Team Air Asia its first GP2 victory.

Valsecchi held off Alvaro Parente after a late safety car period, followed by the impressive Luca Filippi and Romain Grosjean after clever strategies. It was a day to forget for the championship leaders as Sam Bird stalled on the grid and eventually retired after contact with his team-mate Marcus Ericsson, while second-placed Giedo van der Garde also failed to see the finish.

When the lights went out, pole-sitter Bird stalled on the grid, meaning that all 25 cars behind had to negotiate the stricken iSport car. After an error-strewn qualifying session yesterday, it took some exceptional driving for everyone to avoid him and Bird eventually got going a full 25 seconds off the back of the field.

Valsecchi and Parente were the men to inherit the lead, and ran closely at the front for the first stint of the race. Valsecchi started to ease away towards the pit stops, and had a 5 second lead once he had pitted for new tyres. Behind them, Giedo van der Garde made the most of Bird's error to jump up to fourth, but as the first stint developed he came under pressure from Jules Bianchi the inevitable happened when the Lotus ART ran in to the back of van der Garde. Bianchi was forced to pit for a new front wing but never rejoined the track, while van der Garde was shown the black and orange flag and had to pit for a new rear wing leaving him two laps down before he later retired.

Luca Fillippi and Romain Grosjean stayed out for 22 laps on their super-soft tyres and made them work, having started 11th Fiippi built up a strong lead as he continued to set fast laps, but a delayed pit stop dropped him to third, while Grosjean - who had started last - rejoined behind him in fourth as the Pirelli rubber showed impressive consistency.

Being Monaco further errors were likely, and Grosjean's team-mate Paul Verhaug crashed out at Rascasse, while Rodolfo Gonzalez hit the wall and lost his front wing. A queue formed behind seventh placed man Kevin Ceccon as he tried to mirror Filippi and Grosjean's strategy, but once he was passed by Josef Kral and Oliver Turvey in quick succession he was forced to pit and release the train behind.

Bird had pumped in a series of fast laps during his first stint, and proceeded to move through the field with moves on Mirocha and Palmer, and had already made it up to 12th position by the end of the 24th lap. He got up the inside of Leimer in to Mirabeau to take 11th, before pressuring his team-mate Marcus Ericsson and trying to make a move in to Antony Noghes. The pair made contact for the third time this season as Bird made it through, but when Ericsson tried to retake the position on the following lap there was more contact and Bird suffered a puncture, while Ericsson's rear wing collapsed and both were out.

Filippi had started making use of his fresher tyres to close the gap to the leading pair before the iSport collision, and the field was bunched up with the resulting safety car to remove debris from Ericsson's car. At the restart, Julian Leal ran wide at Massanet and crashed in to the wall, but the safety car wasn't needed again and the front four crossed the line just four seconds apart.

Stefano Coletti was ten seconds further back in fifth, ahead of Kral and initially Oliver Turvey, but the Carlin driver was given a 30 second penalty post-race for not taking a drive through penalty for a jump start. That meant Max Chilton finished seventh and Charles Pic eighth so will start tomorrow's sprint race from pole position.

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