The Campos team won the second race at Valencia as well and once again fortune smiled on them. Lucas di Grassi collected the win.
The GP2 sprint race once again provided more talking points than the feature race after a controversial crash between two former team mates and another twist in the championship battle between Giorgio Pantano and Bruno Senna.
Pole sitter Luca Filippi held the lead early on but he quickly came under pressure from Romain Grosjean. Filippi was Grosjean’s team mate at ART at the beginning of the year but left the team under acrimonious circumstances, claiming the team had been favouring Grosjean and neglecting him.
It looked rather like Filippi was letting his emotions rule his driving. Grosjean got completely alongside him at the exit of turn 17 but Filippi shoved him off the track.
Grosjean fell back, bided his time, and finally passed Filippi with a neat move at the final corner. But Filippi made a desperate lunge to re-take the place at turn two, knocking Grosjean into the barriers and out of the race, and letting di Grassi through into the lead.
Further back Bruno Senna and Giorgio Pantano had risen from their starting positions of ninth and 11th to sixth and eighth respectively. Senna hounded Andy Soucek mercilessly and nabbed fifth place off him when the Super Nova driver slowed, but just a few corners later Senna spun into the barriers.
It ended his race, and Pantano’s subsequent rise up the order (which may continue if the stewards choose to take action against Filippi) dealt a potentially fatal blow to Senna’s championship hopes.
A spirited tussle between Javier Villa, Vitaly Petrov and Karun Chandhok provided some late entertainment, though it ended with the elimination of the latter two as Chandhok left his braking too late as turn eight and crashed into the feature race winner.
Di Grassi took the chequered flag ahead of Filippi, though the stewards are investigating the crash with Grosjean. Jerome d’Ambrosio held Giorgio Pantano off for third while Diego Nunes collected fifth ahead of Villa.
Pantano’s championship tally has now reached 70 points but he may pick up one more if Filippi is excluded. Senna leaves Valencia with the 58 points he arrived with, and di Grassi is now only seven ponts behind him, which is quite astonishing given that he missed the first six races.
Grosjean is fourth in 42 ahead of Sebastien Buemi (who should have started from third today but was rolled off the grid with a clutch problem) on 37. Sixth is Pastor Maldonado on 35, the Venezuelan crashing out of today’s race in the early stages.
There are only four races left – two each in Spa-Francorchamps and Monza. Senna faces a huge challenge to overhaul Pantano’s 12 point lead – especially with the season finale taking place on Pantano’s home turf where his form has been excellent.