Luca Filippi wins bizarre Sentul GP2 Asia race

Diego Nunes, GP2 Asia, Sentul, 2008

Just watched the first GP2 Asia race from Sentul – it verged on farce at times but the closing stages were pure drama. Luca Filippi won from Sebastien Buemi, but they were so absorbed on their battle they completed an extra lap, which leaves me wondering if they might be disqualified.

The GP2 Asia cars have been struggling with the Sentul track which has been breaking up underneath them. Heavy rain also washed mud onto the surface, so when the cars pulled away from the grid everyone behind the front row disappeared in a thick brown cloud.

The marshalling standards weren’t up to much either – Christian Bakkerud and Harald Schlegelmilch collided on the first lap and it took until lap three for the safety car to be summoned. It took another ten laps for the cars to be dragged out of the deep gravel bed, in which time most of the leaders got their necessary pit stop out of the way.

Bruno Senna did not pit and took the lead, and he also passed up the chance to pit when the safety car came out again on lap 18 while the marshals pulled Diego Nunes’ car out of the wall. This time it was a different safety car at the front of the field and this might have caught out Senna and second placed Hiroki Yoshimoto. They were both deemed to have passed the car before it pulled into the pits as the race restarted, and picked up drive-through penalties. It seemed a harsh call given the tight angle of the pit entry.

That should have put Vitaly Petrov in the lead, the Russian having started from pole, led away at the start, and stayed ahead of everyone else who pitted. But the crumbling track got the better of him on lap 26 and he spun off, letting Filippi and Buemi through.

With six laps to go Buemi trailled Filippi by four seconds but suddenly pulled a fastest race lap of 1’16.0 out of the bag and began slashing the Italian’s lead. The pair started the final lap 0.6s apart but Buemi could not find a way past on the narrow, dirty track and Filippi kept him at bay by 0.1s.

So absorbed in their battle were they that the pair continued racing for another lap, almost colliding at one point, with Filippi staying ahead. Only when they returned to the pits and saw Adrian Valles’ third placed car sitting their must it have dawned on them that they had continued racing too long.

Hopefully sanctions will not follow, for they put on a magnificent show and compensated for some of the time wasted behind the safety car.

Fourth behind Valles was the hugely impressive Ben Hanley on his debut for Campos. He had started 18th after the disrupted wet qualifying session but kept out of trouble and rose through the field to finish ahead of fellow Renault Development Driver and double round one winner Romain Grosjean. The Swiss-French driver had a subdued outing after his stellar debut, but collected useful championship points on a day when he might easily have stuck it in the wall.

Following his two visits to the pits Senna caught Stephen Jelley and Fairuz Fauzy on the final lap and dispatched the pair of them to take eight place and pole position for tomorrow’s race, where he will hope to make amends after today’s frustration.

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