|The good weather for yesterday’s Feature Race gave way to cold and rain for today’s 28 lap Sprint Race and as the lights went off Christian Vietoris made a superb start from pole position to take an immediate lead. Clearly much faster than any other car on the track, the Racing Engineering driver immediately opened out a huge lead on the opening lap and as the cars crossed the start/finish line the young German lead the race by 3.8 seconds from Van Der Garde.
Dani Clos had not been able to make such a good start from 10th on the grid and at the end of lap 1, hampered by the heavy spray and damage caused by contact with a spinning Herck, he was lying 15th, 0.3 seconds behind Valsecchi and 0.3 seconds ahead of Ericsson.
Back at the front Vietoris continued to dominate, setting fastest lap after fastest lap, frequently running over two seconds a lap quicker than the other cars, his lead growing from 6.1 seconds on lap 2 to 10 seconds on lap 7. Meanwhile Clos was battling hard with Valsecchi, the two cars never more than a few tenths apart as he gradually pulled away from Ericsson. On lap 7 the young Spaniard passed Valsecchi and as several cars ahead pitted Clos moved up to 12th place.
On lap 8 Clos pitted to change to slicks and, following a very fast 33.6 second pitstop by the Racing Engineering team, he resumed the track in 11th position. The following lap race leader Vietoris also pitted returning to the track still comfortably ahead of Van Der Garde.
A Safety Car period meant that Van Der Garde was now right behind Vietoris but, when the Safety Car pulled off, a new fastest lap by the Racing Engineering driver on lap 12 saw Vietoris leading by 1.4 seconds from Grosjean who had overtaken Van Der Garde. Clos was now moving up the field after his pitstop and on lap 13 he running 8th, chasing Pic and leading Mirocha by 1.0 seconds.
Vietoris was now involved in a battle for first place with GP2 Series leader Grosjean and as the race reached the half-way point on lap 14 he was 0.8 seconds ahead of the Frenchman. It was now raining again and lap times were 7 or 8 seconds slower than they had been three laps before. On lap 15 Clos pitted again to change back to wet tyres and, after another very fast stop from the Racing Engineering team, he was now lying in 16th position however one lap later he was forced to retire following a spin caused by the earlier damage to his car.
Unfortunately Vietoris also spun damaging his nose wing and steering, the German immediately pitted for a new nose and wet tyres resuming in 15th as all the cars began to pit for wets. Despite the damage to his steering Vietoris soon began to make up places and on lap 21 he was 11th and involved in a fight for position with Palmer who was out one lap later promoting Vietoris to 10th.
The race was now entering its closing laps and with Vietoris over 12 seconds behind Gonzalez in 9th position and, hampered by the damage to his car, further progress in the difficult tack conditions was just not possible.
Ultimately a very disappointing day for the Racing Engineering team and its two drivers as the frequently changing weather conditions turned the race into a lottery but both Vietoris and Clos showed great pace during the weekend.
The next round in the 2011 GP2 Series will be held at Spa Francorchamps on the 26th to 28th of August.
Dani Clos: “This was a chaotic start and also a chaotic race. At the start I found Herck spinning in front of me when he hit my car, my steering was bent. After this, it was a bit of a gamble. I found it a bit complicated on the wets as well as the dry tyres, and in the end, when we switched back to wets, I made an error. I spun on the curbs and could not get back on track. We have a break now and will recuperate our forces and strength.”
Christian Vietoris: “It looked quite well. In the wet everything was easy and under control. When I was on slicks, I made a mistake and tried a different line. I was surprised by a bump and spun. Once you start spinning on slicks, there is little you can do. Sadly enough I had contact with Grosjean and damaged my car. It's a pity.”
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Racing Engineering’s Sporting Director: “I am very disappointed; we were on the right strategy throughout the entire race. We decided to start on wets as there is no room for gambling when you start from the front. Chris made a good start and was very strong during the first part of the race.
Both pitted to change to slicks at the right moment, Chris was still leading at that stage and Dani was in a good position to score points. However, this first safety car period made us lose the 10 seconds gap Chris was able to open up, but he continued to lead the race. When the rain set in again, Dani pitted for wet tyres and re-joined the race in a good position. Unfortunately he spun off and stalled. It's a pity Chris spun as well and damaged his front wing and steering when re-joining the track. He came into the pits to change to wet tyres and also pick up a new front wing, but the steering arm had been bent during the accident and he struggled during the closing laps of the race. It's disappointing knowing that we could have scored many points today.”