Raffaele Marciello clinched his maiden GP2 victory in tricky conditions at Spa
Race red-flagged due to torrential rain; Late charge from Ferrari protégé sees him hunt down ART man; Palmer's lead cut after Briton finishes sixth
By William Esler
Last Updated: 23/08/14 9:39pm
Raffaele Marciello clinched his maiden GP2 victory after a titanic battle with Stoffel Vandoorne at a wet Spa-Francorchamps.
The Ferrari protégé showed incredible pace in the final five laps – at one point taking 2.4 seconds out of the Vandoorne’s advantage – and after a wheel-to-wheel battle that lasted for a lap and a half, eventually got past the McLaren junior at Les Combes.
Vandoorne had led from pole before the race was red flagged after just two laps due to a torrential downpour, and after fending off the challenge of Johnny Cecotto following the restart, established a comfortable lead and seemed to have the race under control. Indeed, even when Marciello rejoined after his stop at the end of lap 19, his advantage was still around four seconds.
The Belgian couldn’t make his wet tyres last, though, as the track dried and visibly struggled to transfer the power from his ART to the tarmac allowing Marciello to close in and despite a spirited defence, had to give best. The points for second do, however, bring Vandoorne back into the championship hunt after leader Jolyon Palmer dropped from the front-row to eighth at the start, eventually finishing sixth.
Cecotto completed the podium to end a run of three races without finishing, but the Trident driver may have been left wondering what might have been. Having taken the lead from Vandoorne at La Source following the restart, he ran wide at Les Combes and the team told him to let the Belgian past, despite having seemingly gained no advantage from his excursion.
Felipe Nasr bounced back from a disappointing qualifying as he came from 11th on the grid to take fourth and close to within 39 points of Palmer in the standings. He was followed home by Mitch Evans who lost ground when his car entered a safety mode due to the low temperatures during the rain in the opening stages.
Behind sixth place Palmer was Artem Markelov who was arguably the star of the race having started in the pitlane. The Russian rookie pulled off some fantastic overtaking manoeuvres along the way, including going around the outside of Tom Dillmann at Malmedy with millimetre precision. Daniel Abt completed the top eight, coming through from 18th to take reverse grid pole for Sunday’s Sprint Race.
Not all the drivers were able to make their way through the field as cleanly, however, and Nathanael Berthon was penalised for squeezing Simon Trummer and causing a collision at Malmedy as they fought over sixth place.
Sergio Canamasas then inexplicably avoided a penalty after running Stefano Coletti off the circuit on the run into Les Combes. The Spaniard had covered the inside line, but as the Racing Engineering driver went around the outside of his Trident he moved back across the track, forcing the Monegasque man onto the grass and into the barrier.
Sunday’s Sprint Race takes place 9:35am and you can see all the action live on Sky Sports F1.
GP2 Feature Race – Belgium
1) Raffaele Marciello (ITA) – Racing Engineering – 1:19:29.116
2) Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) – ART Grand Prix - +2.088
3) Johnny Cecotto (VEN) – Trident - +35.375
4) Felipe Nasr (BRA) – Carlin - +39.831
5) Mitch Evans (NZL) – Russian Time - +50.526
6) Jolyon Palmer (GBR) – DAMS - +1:00.123
7) Artem Markelov (RUS) – Russian Time - +1:01.123
8) Daniel Abt (GER) – Hilmer Motorsport - +1:01.776
9) Andre Negrao (BRA) – Arden International - +1:02.872
10) Daniel de Jong (NED) – MP Motorsport - +1:05.435
11) Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (GBR) – Rapax - +1:11.224
19) Jon Lancaster (GBR) – Hilmer Motorsport – 1:32.099
Stefano Coletti (MON) – Racing Engineering – Not classified
1) Jolyon Palmer – 200
2) Felipe Nasr – 161
3) Stoffel Vandoorne – 131
4) Johnny Cecotto – 115
5) Mitch Evans - 102