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pic 11/10/14 An excellent 3rd place for Lello in today’s Sochi Feature Race.

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The weather was similar to yesterday’s qualifying with air and track temperatures of 22° and 32° respectively. As yesterday all the cars and drivers were carrying the “Forza Jules” messages to show their thoughts were with former GP2 driver Jules Bianchi following his accident at the Japanese GP.

Lello was starting from 5th using the Pirelli P Zero Yellow softer tyre compound while Stefano, who was starting from 8th, had the harder Pirelli P Zero White option. The race had been reduced to 28 laps due to concerns about fuel consumption.

As the lights went off Lello lost a place to Evans but he finished the opening lap in 6th, 0.5 seconds behind Evans and 0.6 seconds ahead of Nasr. The young Italian was soon pressuring the Russian Time driver and on lap 4 the gap was still just 0.6 seconds with Nasr 0.7 seconds further back.

As the Safety Car took to the track on lap 8 following Stefano’s retirement Lello dived into the pits for his mandatory pitstop switching to the harder Pirelli P Zero White tyres. As Lello returned to the track he was lying 9th, still right behind Evans and just ahead of Pic but, more importantly, he was lying 3rd amongst the cars that had taken their pitstops. Racing resumed on lap 11 and at the end of the lap Lello was still in 9th and battling hard with Pic and Negrão and as he started lap 12 he lost a place to the Frenchman dropping to 10th but on lap 14 he took advantage of the Campos car running wide to regain the position.

Lello was now closing in on Cecotto who had yet to pit but his real target was Evans who was 2.7 seconds ahead of the Racing Engineering car but he was losing time behind the Venezuelan whilst Evans, who was in clear air, was able to lap faster.  By lap 18 the gap to Cecotto was 0.6 seconds but Evans was now 5.6 seconds ahead and Lello’s chances of 2nd place were looking slim. On lap 21 Cecotto pitted and Lello immediately set his fastest lap of the race showing that he had been held up by the Trident car. With two laps to go Lello moved up to 3rd as Ellinas pitted and he was now 2.0 seconds ahead of Pic and he crossed the finishing line to take the 3rd step of the podium which he had vowed to do for his close friend Jules Bianchi.

Stefano made a clean start and part way round the first lap he passed Negrão but lost a place to Nasr who appeared to cut the corner as he passed the young Monegasque driver. By lap 5 Stefano, on his harder tyres, had dropped to 2.4 seconds behind Nasr but he was beginning to lap faster than the Carlin driver and two laps later the gap was down to 1.2 seconds as it was announced that Nasr would have to serve a stop-go penalty for infringing the track limits. Just as it looked as if everything was going Stefano’s way he pulled off to the side of the track with an electrical problem causing a Safety Car deployment.

Following his excellent 3rd place in today’s race Lello will start 6th on tomorrow’s reversed grid in the 21 lap Sprint Race and he will be looking for another podium place. For Stefano, his early retirement will mean he will start from 25th on the grid but, as ever, he will fight as hard as possible to get into the points.
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©GP2
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©GP2
Team Comments:

Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering: “It’s good to have Lello finishing on the podium again but a pity to see Stefano retiring due to an alternator belt failure that could not be anticipated. The team reacted well and quickly to the safety car period, calling Lello into the pits immediately and therefore putting him in a good virtual position. The pit-stop was fine and Lello did a good job on track, especially during the crazy laps after the restart. Real pace was not really shown as Lello was always following other drivers but we believe there is a good potential for another strong result tomorrow. Stefano's pace after the first laps was improving and he felt he could have done a very good race, he will do his best tomorrow to recover from the back of the grid.”

Rafaele Marciello: “The start was OK as I think it was better to lose a position or two there instead of ten by risking too much. I had a good opening lap, where I recovered the positions lost at the start. The safety car helped a bit afterwards. I fought hard for a position with Pic after, which allowed me to finish on the podium today. I am really happy with this 3rd position, as it was my goal to finish on the podium today - for Jules. This podium is dedicated to him.”

Stefano Coletti:: “Not one of the best starts I’ve had this season, but I managed to keep my position. I was actually virtually in P7 as Nasr was given a drive through penalty. My car went quicker and quicker and I was faster than the cars in front of me. But then I suddenly suffered from an electric problem and the car just stopped.”
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©GP2
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