Fabio Leimer secured the GP2 Series title in the Abu Dhabi feature race, as main rival Sam Bird stalled at the start and America’s Alexander Rossi (ABOVE) took victory.
Rossi’s win, his first GP2 success with the Caterham team, came after opting for a medium/medium tire strategy that thwarted long-time race leader Jolyon Palmer and his Carlin team. They chose a medium/super-soft strategy, and Rossi’s two-lap undercut was enough to propel him in front as Palmer rejoined from the pits.
Rossi won by 2.1 seconds despite a late safety car to retrieve Mitch Evans’s stranded car, as Palmer ran the last nine laps on the more fragile tire and could not take the fight to him at the finish.
“It’s amazing! It was very emotional on the podium, but we did such a good job this weekend to get this,” Rossi declared about his first series victory. “Jolyon and Carlin were really strong; their ability to look after tires was a little bit better than us today as mine went off three or four laps before his, so we had to make a call. We had to think about where we look for another podium tomorrow or go for glory today, and that’s what we did.
“The safety car didn’t help us, to be honest, because it gave him a chance to cool off his tires, which we needed, and I thought it was going to be a bit of a fight, but we made a good restart and then held him off. I am very, very relieved that we got it done, and as I said yesterday we can go to the off-season now knowing that we can do it.”
Marcus Ericsson passed Leimer for third with three laps to go at Turn 11, but fourth was enough to crown Leimer as champion.
Chief rival Bird stalled at the start, and despite stopping under an early safety car to switch strategy to get the super-soft tire out of the way, he was unable to rise to the ninth place he required to take the title fight into Sunday, finishing only 10th.
Dani Clos claimed fifth for MP Motorsport, ahead of James Calado, who made a late-race spurt on super-soft tires despite a broken bargeboard that was starving his engine of power.
Felipe Nasr finished seventh, followed by Johnny Cecotto Jr., who will start Sunday’s sprint race from pole.
The early safety car was required for a nasty clash between Jon Lancaster and Tom Dillmann, from which the latter was lucky to escape as Lancaster’s front wing was wedged on his crash helmet.
Results - 29 laps:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Alexander Rossi Caterham 1h00m16.414s 2. Jolyon Palmer Carlin +2.130s 3. Marcus Ericsson DAMS +3.075s 4. Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering +4.687s 5. Dani Clos MP +5.218s 6. James Calado ART +6.370s 7. Felipe Nasr Carlin +8.873s 8. Johnny Cecotto Jr Arden +12.142s 9. Daniel Abt ART +13.102s10. Sam Bird Russian Time +13.568s11. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Hilmer +14.852s12. Sergio Canamasas Caterham +15.896s13. Simon Trummer Rapax +15.919s14. Rio Haryanto Addax +19.021s15. Rene Binder Lazarus +19.229s16. Julian Leal Racing Engineering +21.039s17. Gianmarco Raimondo Trident +23.308s18. Nathanael Berthon Trident +1 lap*19. Stefano Coletti Rapax +1 lap*20. Daniel de Jong MP +1 lap*21. Jake Rosenzweig Addax +3 laps**Not running at finish Retirements: Mitch Evans Arden 22 laps Vittorio Ghirelli Lazarus 9 laps Stephane Richelmi DAMS 1 lap Tom Dillmann Russian Time 0 laps Jon Lancaster Hilmer 0 laps