Bianchi storms to Silverstone victory
Jules Bianchi has claimed his first GP2 series win in mixed conditions in this afternoon’s feature race at Silverstone, leading almost all the way from pole position to take the victory by four seconds from Christian Vietoris and Marcus Ericsson.
Yesterday’s torrid weather revisited the famous circuit just before today’s start, with the rain so heavy that the race had to be delayed by ten minutes and ultimately started behind the safety car. The field circulated twice before going live on lap 3: Bianchi led Alvaro Parente, Vietoris and Dani Clos across the line, while behind them Ericsson snuck past Max Chilton for fifth behind them.
With yesterday’s rain driven chaos the points leaders started the race in unfamiliar territory, but were determined to get back to the sharp end as soon as possible: Giedo van der Garde stormed up from P19 on the grid to P15 in one lap, while title rival Romain Grosjean improved from P13 to P10.
The track was now drying, and pitstops were going to make a huge difference to a lot of people’s races: the iSport teammates and Esteban Gutierrez were notably struggling in the changing conditions, and everyone was waiting to see who would make the gamble to switch to slicks first: Ericsson and Stefano Coletti made the move on lap 12, with Sam Bird and van der Garde in next time around.
It open the floodgates and the rest of the field followed their leads over the next 2 laps, with Vietoris stopping one lap ahead of Bianchi and making a huge time advantage: the pair fought wheel to wheel for the next few laps, swapping the lead all around the circuit as they looked for any advantage over each other.
It was the Frenchman who finally made a small gap from the German, and a string of qualifying laps afterwards saw Bianchi eke out his lead to claim his maiden win ahead of Vietoris. Ericsson took advantage of his early stop to leapfrog a number of drivers to close out the podium, while Grosjean’s blistering pace saw him extend his lead in the title fight with fourth place and the fastest lap.
Bird finished fifth after an eventful race which saw him battling a variety of drivers for almost all of the race before stretching away from Dani Clos in the closing laps. Coletti will be buying the beers for his engineers tonight for a sharp strategy which saw the Monegasque driver move up from P21 on the grid to P7 as the chequered flag dropped, just ahead of van der Garde who held off a late race charge from Parente to claim pole position for tomorrow’s sprint race.
Müller wins frenzied Silverstone race
Nico Müller took his first GP3 victory of the 2011 season in a rain affected race at Silverstone Circuit today. The Jenzer Motorsport driver finished 2.8s ahead of Status Grand Prix’s Alexander Sims and Atech CRS GP’s Nick Yelloly.
Any hopes the enthusiastic crowd had of a British winner today were dashed when the heavens open seconds before the formation lap. Nineteen of the of the thirty cars chose to enter the pits instead of joining the starting grid to switch to wet weather tyres, and thus starting the race from the pitlane. Jenzer Motorsport had made the bold decision to send Müller out on wets earlier despite the relatively clear skies leading up to the start of the race, and the Swiss driver effectively started on pole from sixth place on a half empty grid.
Müller’s getaway was slow and he was passed by RSC Mücke Motorsport Michael Christensen, but the Dane came together with teammate Nigel Melker, allowing Müller back into the lead. Yelloly also benefited from Mücke’s misery to move up into second spot ahead of Luciano Bacheta in the third Mücke car. When the remainder of the field all fed out on track to join the race, original poleman Adrian Quaife-Hobbs was down in ninth ahead of James Calado, Lewis Williamson, Alexander Sims, Valtteri Bottas and Mitch Evans. And over the next 14 laps the race was well and truly on as the pack tried to claw their way back into the points.
As Müller pulled away, Sims was the man on the move. The British driver was the fastest man on track and by lap 6 had made his way through the pack up into fifth spot behind Quaife-Hobbs who had hauled himself up into fourth. Over the next two laps Quaife-Hobbs caught and passed Bacheta for the final podium spot. Sims was next to make quick work of the Mücke driver and was soon putting pressure on Quaife-Hobbs. The Status GP man made his move into turn 1 and then set his sights on Yelloly for second.
With the chequered flag fast approaching, Addax Team’s Dean Smith snatched eight spot from Maxim Zimin to take reverse grid for tomorrow’s sprint race, while Sims continued his onslaught taking second spot. Müller was victorious for the first time this season, and was joined on the podium by the of Sims and Yelloly – with the later scoring Atech CRS GP’s first GP3 podium. The final points paying positions went to British drivers meaning tomorrow’s reverse will be all British front row with Smith on pole alongside Williamson.