After a monsoonal rain soaked race in Malaysia all the drivers were looking forward to the Chinese Grand Prix. It was clear even after two rounds that the third season for the GP2 Championship was going to be a great battle all the way through the field with all drivers making massive time gains on their previous best.
PessimistPrime was poised for his first race of the season after a “communication supplier” issue forced Sauber to running only one car at the first two rounds. Wingnut was missed by the field but the Mercedes team was confident of his return for Bahrain despite a difficult start to the rookies first full season.
Nobody had come out of retirement faster than you can change gears in an F1 car, even swapping teams to join Wingnut at Mercedes, was the retirement a ruse to get out of his Force India contract?
Meanwhile Fredzfrog was not at all happy with his new management team scheduling other commitments during the race weekends and would again be missing from the grid for the 2nd race running.
E.T. was first to set the pace with a time of 1:35.564 already a time faster than last season’s pole, this was quickly eclipsed by JaseGP with a 1:35.279. It took till have way through qualifying for this time to be bettered by millen with a time of 1:35.262 and still complaining of steering issues it was a time that was 6-tenth of a second faster than pole in season 2, a time that would prove to be hard to beat.
No-one could believe just how close it was, with millen still topping the timesheets when the chequered flag dropped for qualifying, with JaseGP in 2nd and all eyes on the Ferrari Missile who had crossed the line moving up to 3rd before the flag and staying on for one final flying lap.
The radios were filled with shock and awe at just how close the field was.
Rogue: “Top 7 cars by half a second!”
Ploddy: “...and the top 4 cars by 3/100th of a second!”
In an unbelievable moment SOJ crossed the line and on the radio “that was balls to the fucking wall.” the radios erupted, teams and drivers alike shocked at what they were looking at on the timing screens.
Rogue even checking: “Is everyone else registering that…?”
It was a qualifying result that even the stopwatch failed to split the two drivers, millen and SOJ, both on the dead even time of 1:35.262, literally nothing between the two.
The starts in GP2 history have not always been kind, especially early on in the season, and China with a long, slow and tightening double right hander into an immediate hairpin left is always difficult. However the race start showed, as qualifying had, just how well the entire field had improved, with all cars going through cleanly.
The rest of lap 1 had its usual jostling of positions right throughout the field with cold tyres and heavy cars. Crossing the line for the end of the first lap would see SOJ leading millen, JaseGP and Ploddy, closely behind, with a wheel to wheel battle between E.T, rogue EffSea, Toggsie, PessimistPrime and Sora, with Nobody and zdievo both suffering technical issues bring in the rear of the field.
E.T. executed a brilliant DRS assisted double pass on millen and Ploddy going into turn 14 on the end of the 4th lap moving him up into 3rd place behind JaseGP, meanwhile Ploddy himself had passed millen into the very same turn. Great clean racing from all three drivers. SOJ was settling in up front pulling out a gap to the rest of the field, helped by the close battles behind him.
The rest of the race would be about the pit stops and minimising driver errors.