If today’s season-opening GP2 Asia race in Abu Dhabi was anything to go by the three round series will be a two-horse race between F1 reserves Jules Bianchi and Romain Grosjean.
The race was delayed for some time after a terrifying startline accident in which AirAsia’s Luiz Razia slammed in to the back of stalled Dani Clos, resulting in a massive shunt for the Brazilian. Meanwhile Ferrari protegee Bianchi leapfrogged polesitter Grosjean – now a Renault reserve – off the line, meaning the Lotus ART driver would lead away at the re-start.
When the race did get going again Bianchi held his lead, just keeping Grosjean behind him with reigning GP2 Asia champion Davide Valsecchi third.
Grosjean was immediately all over the back of Bianchi but suffered a big lockup and lost time. However he couldn’t be kept back for long, quickly hauling Jules in again – though the DAMS man was driving a far more ragged race than his rival. The pair had little problem in leaving third place man Valsecchi for dead, turning the race in to a two-man battle. Grosjean looked to have the pace to get by Bianchi but the leader wasn’t putting a foot wrong.
Of the leading pair it was Grosjean who stopped first, 13 laps in to the 36-lap race, but his hopes of leapfrogging Bianchi took a knock when he struggled to get away from the stop. The Lotus ART easily maintained the advantage – Grosjean would need to do this the hard way.
The former Renault F1 man was once again on Jules’ tail but nothing had changed: Bianchi was holding strong in P1. And so it continued, with Grosjean sliding all over the place as he chased the super-smooth Bianchi.
At this stage the two Frenchman weren’t one and two: Rapax’s Fabio Leimer led by dint of having not yet stopped. However GP2 rules mandate at least one tyre change, meaning the Swiss racer would need to pit and surrender his lead to Bianchi and Grosjean. He did so with five minutes left on the clock, promoting Valsecchi to third.
As the race edged towards its conclusion Grosjean waved the white flag, consolidating second place as Bianchi headed for victory. The ART man took the flag for his first GP2 win, and one that suggests he will be very much in contention for both the Asian and main GP2 Series titles. But Grosjean has tremendous pace too – expect this pair to be the main combatants in the Asian contest.
Third went to Valsecchi, a strong start for Tony Fernandes new AirAsia team, with Marcus Ericsson fourth and Giedo van der Garde fifth. Sixth went to Josef Kral with Brits Sam Bird and Max Chilton completing the points scorers.
Feature Race Result
1. Jules Bianchi (Lotus ART)
2. Romain Grosjean (DAMS)
3. Davide Valsecchi (AirAsia)
4. Marcus Ericsson (iSport)
5. Giedo van der Garde (Addax)
6. Josef Kral (Arden)
7. Sam Bird (iSport)
8. Max Chilton (Carlin)