The stage was set for a fantastic weekend in Montreal, as the GP2 celebrated its return to where it all started a season ago. With a reduced line-up that saw 10 drivers and only 6 of the 8 teams represented on the grid, everyone that finished was guaranteed points. After a late withdrawal of Mercedes driver Nightfire, the door was open for sister team driver SOJ to perform strongly. An almost unbackable favourite going into the weekend, could the McLaren Missile make it 5 in a row?
This track traditionally produces some tight times, but nobody could have predicted just how close it was. In fact, we interviewed Nobody and he confirmed he had no idea. Under sunny skies, Lotus driver Ploddy headed out onto track first and posted a respectable, if slow 1:16.148. McLaren driver milky soon bested that to post a 1:15.464.
From there, as the track heated up and wore in, and the drivers got their eye in, it was clear the times would begin to tumble, with Torro Rosso's Amril going faster and SOJ posting a blistering 1:13.605, almost 2 seconds clear of the field.
It soon became clear that a time in the 1:15's would be competitive, as Ploddy grabbed 3rd position with a 1:15.624. Fellow Lotus driver EffSea followed suit with a 1:15.959 to take 4th, before Toggsie's Mercedes shot through with a blistering 1:15.346 to grab 2nd place. milky bested his previous time to sit incredibly close behind, a 1:15.377 an astonishing 3/100ths of a second the gap. Plagued with poor luck, it seemed the reliability issues of Red Bull was continuing as Nobody813 reported over team radio to be struggling with the car and decided to sit it out at the back of the grid.
With the threat of rain looming, most drivers decided to burn another set of options but little changed in the leaderboard, save for an excellent last minute run for PessimistPrime in the Sauber to take 5th place with a 1:15.641, and a spectacular vehicular disintegration by EffSea into the Wall of Champions. So, with the points going to SOJ, an elated Toggsie, milky, Ploddy and PessimistPrime, the stage was set for a thrilling race under uncertain skies.
A sunny start greeted the field for the start of the anniversary race. Typically messy on the first lap, Canada once again didn't disappoint, with a fair bit of grief greeting the drivers at Turn 1. Ploddy gave Toggsie's Mercedes a love tap but skill prevailed and Togs held true, milky ran in hot to the corner, spinning into PessimistPrime coming through on the outside, and Ploddy shot under for 3rd position. SOJ got away cleanly, with Toggsie reporting "I managed to keep it roughly on the track and by the time I looked up, SOJ was gone"
The field settled in and we got underway. The skies remained clear for the first part of the race and it seemed the chance of rain was diminishing. Lap 5 saw a fast moving Amril shoot past Nobody813 to move into 6th place, before handing it straight back a few metres later. Meanwhile, a tight race was developing for the minor podium places, with Toggsie, Ploddy and EffSea separated by less than 2 seconds each.
Drama struck on lap 7 when roxas3sora3 destroyed his Sauber in spectacular fashion and brought out the safety car. The majority of the field chose to stay out, but a few well timed stops proved favourable for a few drivers, not least of all SOJ, who managed to keep his position at the front of the pack. PessimistPrime decided to stop for options and slotted back in 6th position. It was a full 3 laps later before the pack got underway again, with SOJ backing the pack up nicely, before accelerating hard coming out of the wall of champions and increasing the gap immediately, as Toggsie ran wide into Turn 1 and losing grip.
Pit stops featured heavily in the next part of the race for those that didn't pit under the safety car and the minor places changed hands, with milky pushing up into 4th position and PessimistPrime launching up into 2nd place. Ploddy, bringing his Lotus out of the pits on Lap 13 just managed to stay ahead of milky's McLaren, the gap less than a second. Meanwhile, race leader SOJ extended his sizeable lead and Fredzfrog capitalised on pits to move to 5th place.
Dramas aplenty on lap 14, as milky went too deep into the chicane at turn 9, clipping the grass on the inside corner and sending his McLaren into a slide. Sheer force of will stopped the rear of the car from hitting the inside wall, but the tyres bit and milky shot to the other side of the track and into the outside wall, narrowly missing a pants-wetting Ploddy following closely behind. Shortly thereafter, perhaps through engine failure or team orders, milky retired his McLaren and called it a day.
The skies darkened and the threat of rain loomed. This posed a problem for the drivers - when to pit for inters? FredzFrog decided to pit early and instantly regretted it, whilst the others decided to risk it a while longer.
Lap 20 sees an incident on the back straight at Turn 9. Amril and Toggsie go into a spin and EffSea dives round the outside, only to pick up a drive through penalty for an illegal overtake on the grass. EffSea slows to allow the cars to pass back, but they are too far behind and he picks up the penalty. Then, coming out of the pits, he crosses the white line and gets pinged again.
Lap 21, and a blue-flagged Amril reports engine failure and packs it in, a disappointing end to a miserable weekend for the talented Torro Rosso driver, and the third driver to call it a day at Montreal. On Lap 23, Nobody813 reports steering issues in his Red Bull, which miraculously recovers in time to avert disaster and continue the race. Perhaps luck is changing for the young Australian.
Lap 29 and things get interesting. With the rain falling, from 2nd place PessimistPrime pits for inters, too early for the conditions. He instantly loses time to the field, and after a short stint, pits for primes and drops back to 4th place. Meanwhile, SOJ and Ploddy out front resist the temptation and benefit from only slightly greasy conditions, that persisted till a few laps from the end, when conditions dried up for the finish.
SOJ crossed the line first in a time of 47 minutes 53 seconds, a full 46.7 seconds clear of 2nd place Ploddy. Despite a valiant effort, PessimistPrime couldn't catch a triumphant Toggsie, who shot his Silver Arrow into 3rd for his first ever podium finish. The crowd delighted in his outpour of emotions over team radio, a special moment in this league's history. Nobody813, after curing his reliability issues, crossed for a well deserved 10 points in 5th, ahead of a Race Official-blighted EffSea in 6th and a consistency-satisfied FredzFrog in 7th.
In the end, the birthday track didn't disappoint, with tyre tactics and weather playing its usual part in deciding the minor points positions. Happy anniversary GP2! Next week it's the start of the European leg proper, with a visit to the highly popular and supremely challenging street circuit at Valencia.
|6||15||iM Amril intel||Toro Rosso||01:15.732||0|
|5||11||nobody813||Red Bull||+1 lap||34||01:18.928||9||10|
|6||7||Effing Sea||Lotus||+1 lap||34||01:17.893||7||8|
|7||14||Fredzfrog||Red Bull||+2 laps||33||01:19.908||8||6|
|8||15||iM Amril intel||Toro Rosso||+35 laps||0||01:19.141||6||0|