Cecotto storms to feature race victory-
Venezuelan gambles for strategic win-
Johnny Cecotto’s gamble to start on slicks when all of his rivals (other than Stéphane Richelmi) started on wet tyres paid off in spades with a dominant victory in this afternoon’s feature race in Hockenheim, allowing the Venezuelan to pick his strategy rather than have it dictated to him to roll out an easy winner ahead of Fabio Leimer and Richelmi.
With a heavy shower ahead of the race Cecotto and Richelmi were the only drivers willing to throw the dice (from P17 and P22 respectively), hanging on as best they could when the lights went out and the spray went up. At the front poleman Giedo van der Garde had a decent start to lead out his rivals, with Nigel Melker mugging Leimer for P2 at turn 4: the pair soon gobbled up the Caterham driver as Fabio Onidi sliced his way past Felipe Nasr to cross the line behind them.
Leimer pushed Melker all over the circuit for a few laps, inevitably taking the lead on lap 5 just as a dry line was forming, allowing Cecotto to set the fastest lap thus far: it was all the incentive the field needed, with almost everyone storming into the pits next time by to switch to dries themselves, handing Cecotto and Richelmi a huge advantage in the process.
The pitstops gave Cecotto a 28 second lead over Leimer, who headed the now-pitted van der Garde, Nasr, Melker, Luiz Razia, James Calado, Stefano Coletti, Marcus Ericsson and Davide Valsecchi as the sun shone down. The Swedish driver was desperate to find a way past his Monegasque rival and eventually got inside and through at the hairpin with Valsecchi trying to follow: the Italian was less fortunate, and damaged the front of his car on Coletti’s right rear tyre.
The big question now was when would Cecotto (who stretched to a 10 second lead over Richelmi) pit, and how long would it take? Richelmi was in on lap 23 and emerged behind Nasr, while the Venezuelan came in one lap later and returned easily in the lead, much to the chagrin of Leimer.
With fresher tyres the closing laps were a simple job to tick off for Cecotto, who rolled across the line almost 10 seconds ahead of Leimer. Richelmi did a great job to dispatch Nasr for a popular podium finish, with van der Garde clearly struggling to hold on as he eventually crossing the line in fifth. His countryman Melker was the next man through, with Razia and Calado right on his tail, while a last lap battle between Ericsson and Esteban Gutiérrez saw the pair run deep at the hairpin, allowing Tom Dillmann a clean line through for ninth and the Mexican snapping up the final points position
Razia stretched out his lead in the championship to 171 points over Valsecchi on 159, with Gutiérrez on 123 points ahead of van der Garde (107), Calado (99), Chilton (95), Leimer (87) and Cecotto (76), and with the Brazilian on the front row of tomorrow’s sprint race behind poleman Calado, there are sure to be more changes in the title fight to come.