Sam Bird takes GP2 Feature Race victory in Monaco
Race restarted after first corner crash eliminates seven drivers
By William Esler. Last Updated: 17/09/13 1:24pm
Fourteen cars were involved in a collision on the opening lap of the GP2 at Monaco.
Sam Bird took a dominant win in the GP2 Feature Race in Monaco after a first-corner crash eliminated seven drivers and forced the race to be restarted.
Pole-sitter Johnny Cecotto lit up his rear tyres as the lights went out which allowed team-mate Mitch Evans through into the lead and Fabio Leimer to get alongside the Venezuelan.
Rather than concede the place to the Racing Engineering driver, Cecotto carried far too much speed into Sainte Devote, going straight on and taking the Swiss with him into the wall. That triggered a chain reaction behind as the drivers had nowhere to go and ran into one another. Sky Sports columnist Jolyon Palmer was lucky to avoid injury when Julian Leal's front wing came very close to his head.
Cecotto was subsequently suspended from Saturday's Sprint Race after the stewards judged that "he failed to negotiate Turn One and caused a collision."
After a 40-minute delay, the race was restarted behind the safety car with 17 cars still in the field - Cecotto, Leimer, Palmer, Leal, Robin Frijns, Marcus Ericsson, Alexander Rossi, Nathanael Berthon and Kevin Giovesi were all forced to retire. The running order was determined by the order in which the drivers had completed Sector One, with those that didn't filing in according to their grid order. That meant a new top five of Evans, Bird, Kevin Ceccon, Felipe Nasr and James Calado.
The safety car pulled off after one lap and the action got underway with 40 laps remaining. Evans made a good restart to pull out a gap on Bird, but a series of fastest laps from the RUSSIAN TIME driver saw him close onto the rear wing of the Kiwi.
When the pit window opened, Stefano Coletti and Tom Dillmann were the first to make their mandatory stops. Both stayed on the prime tyre, changing only the rears and that strategy allowed Coletti to eventually work his way up to sixth in his home race.
Upfront Evans was starting to struggle for grip on his supersoft tyres, with Coletti now lapping two seconds a lap quicker than the leaders. Cecccon had now closed onto the back of the battle for the lead and pitted on lap 11 to get some clear air.
Evans was in a lap later, changing all four tyres for a set of the soft compound Pirellis, but Ceccon had made up enough time in that one lap to get ahead of the Arden driver.
Daniel de Jong was enjoying one of his strongest runs to date in GP2, but it went disastrously wrong when he stopped on Lap 15. A rear jack failure delayed the Dutchman, who then crossed the yellow pit exit line as he rejoined the track which earned him a drive through penalty. He would eventually salvage tenth place.
Having inherited the lead when Evans pitted, Bird had put in some quick laps in the intervening period and was able to stop on lap 16 and rejoin in the lead of the race - a lead he would never relinquish. That's not to say he did not keep pushing however - a glance off the wall on the exit of Portier showed the Mercedes F1 reserve driver was using all of the track and more as he opened the gap at the front.
On lap 27, Daniel Abt made a late move on the brakes at Rascasse to pass Rio Haryanto. The pair made light contact and the Addax driver ended up in the barriers where Michael Schumacher stopped during F1 qualifying in 1996.
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Despite it looking like a racing incident at worst, the German was given a drive-through penalty by the stewards and things got worse for him a few laps later when he was shown a black and orange flag and called into the pits for a new front wing.
With Bird 22 seconds clear at the front, the main focus was on the final podium spot, with just a second covering Evans, Nasr and Calado as the race entered the closing stages. However, neither were able to find a way past, with Evans taking third spot by just 0.1 seconds at the line from the Brazilian.
GP2 Monaco Feature Race Results
1) Sam Bird (GBR) - RUSSIAN TIME - 1:36:15.919
2) Kevin Ceccon (ITA) - Trident Racing - +22.077
3) Mitch Evans (NZL) - Arden International - +23.225
4) Felipe Nasr (BRA) - Carlin - +23.416
5) James Calado (GBR) - ART Grand Prix - +29.588
6) Stefano Coletti (MON) - Rapax - +1:00.519
7) Rene Binder (AUT) - Venezuela GP Lazarus - +1:02.449
8) Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (GBR) - MP Motorsport - +1:08.400
9) Stephane Richelmi (MON) - DAMS - +1:12.107
10) Daniel de Jong (NDL) - MP Motorsport - +1:22.410
12) Jon Lancaster (GBR) - Hilmer Motorsport - +1 lap
Jolyon Palmer (GBR) - Carlin - Not Classified
1) Stefano Coletti - 103 points
2) Felipe Nasr - 88
3) Sam Bird - 58
4) Fabio Leimer - 54
5) Robin Frijns - 37
6) James Calado - 34
7) Jolyon Palmer - 31
8) Alexander Rossi - 27
9) Kevin Ceccon - 26
10) Mitch Evans - 26