- GP2, Spanish Grand Prix, Race 1
Van der Garde wins close feature race
Giedo van der Garde won a close feature race in Barcelona as he held on following a three-way battle for the lead.
Van der Garde withstood the attentions of pole-sitter James Calado and Stefano Coletti to secure his first victory of the season. Championship leader Davide Valsecchi was fourth but unable to keep in touch with the leading trio, while Nathaniel Berthon secured an impressive fifth place having started in tenth place.
Calado got a slightly slow start but robustly defended the lead from Leimer through the opening two corners. A really poor start from third-place man Stefano Richelmi relegated him from third to the midfield, while Coletti and van der Garde got ahead of Max Chilton. Calado was forced to defend from Leimer in to turn one again on lap three before things settled down at the front.
The top four of Calado, Leimer, van der Garde and Coletti were running within three seconds during the opening stint with Valsecchi close behind. Calado and Leimer pitted at the same time, and Racing Engineering carried out marginally the quicker stop, but a tyre rolled out towards the pit lane as Calado exited. The pair were released side-by-side but Leimer was slow off the limiter and dropped back by a few seconds. Van der Garde stayed out for one extra lap and only changed two tyres, allowing him to jump Calado for the net lead.
Valsecchi stayed out for a couple of extra laps but lost out and rejoined ten seconds off the lead. Half way through the race Leimer started to close in on the leading pair but was soon under investigation for an unsafe release and handed a drive-through penalty which dropped Leimer out of contention and back to 13th place.
In the battle for the lesser points Berthon made good use of an early pit stop to jump up to sixth place, inheriting fifth when Leimer took his penalty. Behind them Fabio Onidi held Chilton at bay, while Nigel Melker was handed a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane, relegating him from reverse grid pole.
With 11 laps to go Coletti pumped in a very fast lap to join the front two, but the leading trio could only trade sector times in the closing laps. Calado appeared to be waiting for an opportunity but van der Garde judged the race beautifully to preserve his tyres and take victory.
There was a close battle for sixth right to the line, with Onidi holding off Chilton and Luis Razia - who will start from pole in tomorrow's sprint race. Jolyon Palmer and Esteban Gutierrez rounded out the points.