The home track for Ferrari saw another absence from the stable, much to the disappointment of the Tifosi. Toro Rosso were also missing from their home GP, with upset Italian fans heard chanting Toro Merda in protest. Perhaps even the funding of Red Bull is not enough to bolster them up with the unsteady Italian economy. The remaining stables turned out a good field with only the Williams of zdievo unable to make the grid. Even Nobody813 was able to compete despite being forced to use a prototype steering-arm and throttle system. Post-race the driver had only this to say; "My hands hurt". SoJ was the odds-on favourite with only the unknown quantities of the two Mercedes drivers really posing much of a threat. The McLaren Missile was humbly confident "To be honest I wasn't that confident going into Spa but felt a lot more going into this one."
|7||5||rogue eclipse||Williams||+1 lap||26||01:24.803||10||6|
|10||11||nobody813||Red Bull||+1 lap||26||01:26.863||11||1|
|DSQ||14||Fredzfrog||Red Bull||+27 laps||0||01:26.268||9||0|
Qualifying times got off to a slow start, with only a few of the field able to set decent times on their first runs. By the half-way mark, SoJ lead the pack with a 1:20.588 only to be surpised by how close a 2nd placed Oz1098s got in his Mercedes, coming in 300ths of a second behind but on the Prime Tyre. Nightfire qualified comfortably to round out the top 3 a half second behind Oz1098, with a 2 second gap to the rest of the field.
Slots 4 through 9 were all within a second of each other, proving once again how strong the competition for the mid-field is this season. The Sauber's locked out 4 and 5, with a grinning Monisha Kaltenborn delighted at having two competitive grid-spots for the first time all season. Sora was happy with a very late run with less than a minute on the clock "...managed to pip Prime for 4th...", meanwhile Pessimist took a strategic approach opting instead for the Prime tyres and a longer first stint, banking a competitive time on his first run and opting to save the options. Toggsie found enough pace in his McLaren to edge out the two Lotus drivers, with Effing Sea and Ploddy taking 7th and 8th, followed by an on-pace Fredzfrog in the Red-Bull. Post-race revealed an engineering mistake with the Lotus of Ploddy meant he would be fighting the car all weekend. "Not the engineer’s fault, they were just doing what I asked of them, but they gave me a car that was twitchy at best, downright unstable at worst."
Rogue Eclipse took 10th, the usually fast driver possibly held back by a lack of practice over the break and Lap Times certainly not helped by a misplaced DRS switch or the choice of a Prime tyres first strategy. Nobody813 was just off the pace whilst using the new steering system.
The first turn always looked to deliver casualties, most the field got off lightly however with a near-miss for Nightfire, Sora getting out of shape, and Toggsie finding the gravel, before the race settled in. SoJ got away clean in first but picked up a drive-through penalty for the effort at the start of the second lap, with the stewards pinning him for corner-cutting. The rest of the first stint ebbed and flowed, some finding the gravel whilst jostling for position with the rest taking opportunities as they presented. Up the front, mistakes, penalties and miscommunication between both Mercedes drivers and SoJ in the McLaren saw the race leader switch 3 times before the first pit-stop, all skipping around a slower, yet more consistent Pessimist.
Effing Sea looked comfortable in 5th for the entirety of the race, unable to bridge the gap to Pessimist, but cleanly ahead of 6th place Nobody who was able to adjust to race-pace with the new Steering system. The story for 7th through 10th was similar to the front, with position changes regular, consistency paying dividends over pace. Fredzfrog was unable to overcome race-day nerves and whilst showing good pace in practice was slowly falling behind. Things intensified up the front as team tactics came into play. Nightfire, cruising in 1st by way of Pit tactics, decided to try slow down the McLaren of SoJ to allow teammate Oz to catch up. "I'd more than likely be in 3rd place no matter what, so I decided that I'd go out and take the lead and make a pitstop as late as possible to try and give my teammate Desmo a chance at getting SOJ".
The final stint upped the ante for First and Second, with SoJ and Oz fighting right to the line. With 4 laps to go SoJ passes a yet-to-pit Nightfire and has a 4 second gap to Oz, on Primes and Standard Mix Fuel, Oz cuts into that gap 1 second per lap with Options and a faster engine map. For the closest finish of the season thus far SoJ was within half a second at the 2nd last turn and Oz was catching fast. The McLaren Missile crossed first, edging out Oz by .24 of a second, Oz had the pace but needed another 300 metres of road. Both drivers congratulating each other over Race Radio. "Awesome result after a terrible start, I couldn't believe it when I crossed the line a very special win" stated a much relieved SoJ. 3rd placed Nightfire, 33 seconds back, gave Mercedes a 2-3 finish, with Pessimist taking a comfortable 4th. The Sauber driver stating "4th was a good result for us. I drove well and consistently today, definitely my best drive of the season"
Effing Sea crossed in 5th cleanly ahead of the remainder of the pack. Sora found form in the final third and managed to pass half the field to finish in 6th "from 4th to dead last to 6th is quite a remarkable recovery". 7th looked like a shoot-out between Toggsie and Ploddy, but a late-charge from Rogue managed to put a pass on Toggsie after the Mclaren No2 found gravel in the late stages, and then pressured 7th out of a drained Ploddy, passing under DRS on the final lap. Toggsie picked up 2 points for 9th, many drivers and perhaps himself feeling as though he had the pace to go better, he will definitely be one to watch. Nobody813 rounded out the points after fatigue at the hands of the prototype steering system finally overcame the driver in the final leg of the race. Perhaps most disappointed would be Fredzfrog who showed such promise in the race lead-up. The veteran driver disqualified for corner cutting the first chicane on his last lap. Indeed many are left wondering if the penalty was heavy-handed, would a time-penalty not have sufficed.
Race wrap up:
With Mercedes taking 2nd and 3rd their bid for the Drivers Championship has gone up another notch whilst SoJ' result sees his points edge towards an inevitable championship. Further afield there was not much change over the table, but at this stage of the comp even a few points have high value. There were whispers in the drivers association over the Stewards decisions this weekend, with some speculation that perhaps the officials for Variante Ascari were accidentally positioned on the Variante del Rettifilo by mistake, with many drivers penalised for marginal indiscretions in the first sector, whilst corner-cutting seemed to go unnoticed in the third.
Next week sees the GP2 head to Asia for the highly technical Marina Bay circuit. Murmurs of information leaks heading into the Singapore leg abound amid speculations of setup and driver configuration leaks overheard in scrutineering post-race. No official complaints have been raised, however all teams will be keeping a close eye on the performance of competitors over the next few weeks.
"Awesome result after a terrible start, I couldn't believe it when I crossed the line a very special win." - SOJ - McLaren
"All in all I had a lot of fun and the finish was the icing on the cake, next time SOJ, next time." - Oz1098S - Mercedes
"PP on the left, Toggsie on the right, 3 wide thru the turn. Turn 2 and I may have tapped Toggs" - Toggsie - McLaren
"Having said that, if it weren’t for my wheel, I would have done much better. Maybe not a whole lot quicker, but way more consistent, and that gets you points. I had a strong talking to my engineers after the race, they apologised profusely, but I said that’s not good enough – I expect better things come Singapore and they better damn well deliver." - Ploddy - Lotus
"I decided that I'd more than likely be in 3rd place no matter what, so I decided that I'd go out and take the lead and make a pitstop as late as possible to try and give my teammate Desmo a chance at getting SOJ, a Massa Manoeuvre some would call it. My tyres lasted wonderfully and it took a few tries before SOJ could get past me as Desmo was setting quickest laps just behind us. If only I had held out a little while longer! I pitted for Primes after 24 laps on my options (were yellow-orange wear for anyone curious, still drivable) a fair few seconds out in front of PessimistPrime and I managed to hold onto that till race end." - NightFire - Mercedes
"Race and had a decent start. Managed to avoid the first part of the chicane only to be turned round. So had to dive to the left to avoid smashing a wing or getting bogged down. Not happy for that and proceeded to chase down the backmarkers. I knew this was impossible to get a podium after I was pinged for cutting the chicane about lap 4 so I had to do an undercut and try and close the gap after that. Came in on lap 8 in order to do the undercut against grey and as well as Ploddy. I knew Prime was quick so I decided to let him continue on the prescribed pit stop. Then proceeded to basically catch everyone as the tyres started to fade. Ironically, I was getting faster and faster overall as others were having trouble with the Variante del Rettifilo chicane. Caught Ploddy but couldn't use DRS properly as I was hitting the rev limit but passed him. Then had to avoid spinning fredz, a few offs from Ploddy and others." - roxas3sora3 - Sauber
"Race - slow start, ended up last, made up spots after the first corner, gradually lost them all. Tried to just stay patient, hope the options prove a lot quicker than the primes later in the race and don't put it into a wall. I think it's fair to say that I didn't take the same line around any corner twice in this race. My pace wasn't there this week, but the patience paid off as people ahead made errors and I was able to climb up a bit. A stupid penalty just as I was coming to my pit stop threw a spanner in the works, but was still able to push on. Thanks to NightFire for letting my unlap myself and to the friendliest car on the track - Nobody, I might have been going quicker but that doesn't mean you should move for me when we are racing for position, fight for it man! Toggs vs Ploddy allowed me to make ground on the both and get Toggs after an error and Plods under DRS on the back straight of the last lap. Fair play on that pass to Ploddy, I knew you were trying to psych me out of it, but I was having none of it!" - rogue eclipse - Williams