A damp race track made for a thrilling GP2 sprint race at Magny-Cours. The race came to those who had the courage to start on slick tyres – and the Arden team took best advantage to score a one-two finish.
Mike Conway led the early, tentative laps on wet weather tyres while Jerom d’Ambrosio had a rapid start from the second row to pass Karun Chandok. Chandhok, predictably, threw his car off the track halfway around the first lap.
Alberto Valerio supplied the second unsurprising crash of the race, going off on the run towars the Adelaide hairpin, smashing a polystyrene corner marker and scattering debris across the track.
With a few laps the leaders were heading for the pits to switch to slick tyres. But they lost out to those who had began the race on dry weather rubber.
The first of those was Yelmer Buurman who had started 12th and now headed a three-car train including his team mate Sebastien Buemi and Super Nova’s Alvaro Parente. Buurman, who showed his skill on slick tyres in the wet in F3 last year, inherited the lead as Conway, Petrov, Pastor Maldonado, Giorgio Pantano and the remaining leaders all pitted.
Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna had both started towards the back of the pack after their problems in yesterday’s race, and each took different approaches.
Grosjean started from 19th on wet-weather tyres and made a terrific start, cutting through the pack on the first lap in stunning fashion. But after switching to slick tyres he spun off at Estoril and got stuck. He took no points away from his home race.
Senna started even further back in 23rd and gambled on slick tyres – which proved the right choice. Despite a brief spin he rose as high as third, passing Parente. But straight away he ran into more technical problems, and fell back down the order to finish fifth. It was a remarkable drive once again thwarted by bad luck.
Up front the battle for the lead had turned into an all-Arden affair. Buemi reeled in Buurman and got a run on his team mate when the Dutchman ran wide at Estoril. The two ran the length of the back straight side by side, before Buemi claimed the inside line for Adelaide. You could almost hear the Arden pitwall breathing a collective sigh of relief.
Parente, like Senna, dropped back with car problems. That allowed Luca Filippi to inherited third and Lucas di Grassi fourth while Senna fell to fifth. Pole sitter Conway recovered to sixth having fallen half a minute behind the leaders following his pit stop.
Pantano failed to add to his championship lead after making a poorly-timed lunge at Petrov and breaking his suspension. However he remains top of the table ahead of Senna, with Buemi moving up to third ahead of Grosjean after a poor weekend at home for the French driver.