MAY 28, 2005

Kovalainen uses his brains

Heikki Kovalainen won the GP2 race on Saturday at the Nurburgring with a class drive from 17th on the grid. The Arden International team used a sensible strategy to pit early and run in free air early on while the others were dicing and so gained a sufficient advantage to take the lead before the other teams realised what was happening. The first to react was Super Nova but race leader Giorgio Pantano left his pit stop too late and came out behind Kovalainen and stayed there for the rest of the race.

After qualifying the grid was shuffled by the stewards who ruled that Nico Rosberg, Heikki Kovalainen and Alexander Premat had all passed under yellows and so they were dropped back to 11th, 17th and 22nd respectively. The starting procedure is best glossed over with the GP2 cars once again showing that there needs to be some work done with clutches as Hiroki Yoshimoto stalled before the parade lap. At the first start Ernesto Viso and Nicolas Lapierre were left waving their arms and the start was aborted. Around they went again and at the second start it was Scott Speed and Ryan Sharp who stalled. There was another parade lap followed and then it was Rosberg's turn to stall as the field finally took off. All the excitement proved to be too much for Borja Garcia who drove down to the first corner as if it was not there and duly collided with the unfortunate Adam Carroll. The result of this was that the two men plus Alexandre Negrao, Ferdinando Monfardini and Olivier Pla were all out of the race and there was a Safety Car. This helped the stallers to get back in touch with the field.

The smart move now was to pit and both Kovalainen and Rosberg went into the pits to get rid of their mandatory pit stops. The race was soon on again and Giorgio Pantano led from Bruni, with Lopez soon making a mistake and falling behind Clivio Piccione. Further back Nelson Piquet Jr was able to pass Neel Jani for fifth. It was already clear that Kovalainen was gaining a huge advantage by running in clear air but it was not until the eighth lap that Pantano pitted, emerging behind the Finn. Bruni led from Piccione while Piquet's team took three more laps to realise that it was time to pit. The team then had drama with tyres and so Piquet dropped more places than he should have done. On lap 12 Bruni. Piccione and Lopez all stopped but they had lost too much time and were not in the hunt. To make matters worse Piccione had a tyre problem. Neel Jani led for a while before pitting and then Premat was in the lead but both were doomed to drop further down the order than they needed to have done.

Bruni did not help himself by spinning soon after his stop.

All this left Kovalainen leading Pantano with the rest, led by Rosberg, a long way behind. The rest provided some fun in the second half of the race as Premat drove around the outside of Bruni on lap 23. Piquet then got ahead of Bruni and then pushed Premat wide at the last corner on lap 26. Lopez spun out while Piquet attacked Jani and managed to pass the Swiss without needing to run into him. Premat also found a way past Jani and at the end managed to pass Piquet for fourth on the last lap. Thus Piquet was fifth, Jani sixth, Piccione seventh and Bruni eighth.

This means that Kovalainen increases his lead in the championship to 11 points.

GP2 is providing some interesting racing but it would really help if the cars could get off the line.