Stoffel Vandoorne takes fourth win of the season in GP2 Feature Race in Abu Dhabi
Victory moves Belgian up to second in standings; Champion Jolyon Palmer second; Mitch Evans completes podium at Yas Marina
By William Esler
Last Updated: 25/11/14 5:35pm
Stoffel Vandoorne took his fourth victory of the season in an action-packed GP2 Feature Race in Abu Dhabi.
The win moved the Belgian ahead of Felipe Nasr into second place in the Drivers’ Championship as rumours started to gather pace in the Yas Marina paddock that the youngster could be in contention for a McLaren race seat in 2015.
With a large gap in the lifespan of the supersoft and medium tyres on offer, the field split their strategies leading to two very different races playing out.
Starting on the supersoft tyre, Vandoorne streaked into an early lead from fellow frontrow man Jolyon Palmer who was on the mediums.
The Briton was under immediate pressure from Sauber-bound Felipe Nasr who made a lightening getaway on the softer rubber to go from fifth on the grid to third and the Brazilian would take second spot under braking into Turn 11.
Even with an early Safety Car to recover the stranded Arden of Rene Binder, those cars on the supersoft tyres struggled to make them last until the pit window opened on lap six. Nasr was suffering more than most and slipped back into the clutches of Palmer, delaying both, as Vandoorne opened up a 4.1 second gap at the end of lap five.
Vandoorne and Nasr would both pit at the first opportunity leaving Palmer and Mitch Evans at the head of the field and it wouldn’t be until the closing lap that the two races would come together once more.
Running a long first stint on the medium tyre is always a risky strategy in case the Safety Car is deployed and there would have been a few worried faces at both DAMS and Russian Time when Pierre Gasly slammed the door shut on Andre Negrao under the hotel sending both cars spinning towards the barriers. Both would recover to the pits without the need to neutralise the race, however.
Vandoorne could also have been in trouble as he came through the pack. Having passed John Lancaster at the final turn on Lap 14, the Briton immediately fought back as the cars crossed the start finish line. The Belgian straightened his line causing the Hilmer man to tag the rear of the ART, but after an investigation the stewards decided no further action was warranted.
With ten laps to go Palmer and Evans both dived into the pitlane for their mandatory stop. Even that wasn’t without drama, however, as Palmer came dangerously close to an unsafe release as he rejoined ahead of Evans before locking up on the exit and nearly tagging the wall in the unique tunnel.
On the new tyres Palmer was immediately 1.5 seconds quicker than Vandoorne as he set about closing an eight-second gap to the leader, but even with the lighter fuel load the tyres wouldn’t last and his pace fell away.
Victory for Vandoorne means he now has a nine-point advantage over Nasr in the battle for second. He will start Sunday’s Sprint Race from eighth whilst the Brazilian starts fifth.
GP2 Feature Race – Abu Dhabi
1) Stoffel Vandoore (BEL) – ART Grand Prix – 1:00:56.725
2) Jolyon Palmer (GBR) – DAMS - +12.157
3) Mitch Evans (NZL) – Russian Time - +19.159
4) Felipe Nasr (BRA) – Carlin - +22.205
5) Stephane Richelmi (MON) – DAMS - +28.099
6) Johnny Cecotto (VEN) – Trident - +31.375
7) Stefano Coletti (MON) – Racing Engineering - +34.254
8) Arthur Pic (FRA) – Campos Racing - +34.499
9) Rio Haryanto (INA) – Caterham Racing - +36.797
10) Daniel de Jong (NZL) – MP Motorsport - +46.613
18) Jon Lancaster (GBR) – Hilmer Motorsport - +1:19.605
1) Jolyon Palmer – 276
2) Stoffel Vandoorne – 221
3) Felipe Nasr – 212
4) Mitch Evans – 166
5) Johnny Cecotto - 136