When I spoke to Oliver Turvey last month he reckoned missing the pre-race test at Abu Dhabi had kept him from doing better in his first two GP2 Asia races.
He proved that with a fine win in the third race of the championship at the Yas Island circuit after a gripping and – at least once – physical battle with team mate Davide Valsecchi.
A sand storm earlier in the week left the circuit very dusty, and Turvey made the best start from second place to take the lead off pole sitter Charles Pic.
The iSport cars were first and second by the end of the first lap as Valsecchi muscled his way past Pic as well – the two cars throwing up plumes of dust as they disputed the position off-line.
Pic tried to recover his position with an early pit stop on lap eight – but found himself losing track position to team mate Javier Villa who pitted earlier.
The first round of pit stops went even worse for Sergio Perez, who stalled on the way to his pit box but was able to restart and get going.
That promoted series newcomer Jules Bianchi to third place behind Valsecchi. The pair darted into the pits on lap nine, Bianchi having a twitchy moment in the tunnel as they returned to the track.
Turvey’s in-lap was briefly compromised by the slow Plamen Kralev, but he made it into the pits and back on to the track ahead of Valsecchi.
But only just. While Turvey got his cool tyres up to temperature Valsecchi pounced, lining up his team mate on the outside of turn eight. Turvey stood his ground and the pair banged wheels but Valsecchi scraped through.
Turvey fought back quickly and in the turns around the back of the pits he somehow got around the outside of his team mate and back ahead. Bianchi followed in their wheeltracks, having just completed a similarly opportunistic move on Pic.
Valsecchi made another attempt to pass Turvey the next time around, but failed. Behind them an ill-judged move by Luca Fillipi punted Pic out of the running. His pass on Villa a few laps later was completed rather more cleanly.
Once Giacomo Ricci, Michael Herck, Max Chilton and Alberto Valerio made their pit stops Turvey was back in the lead. While the battle at the front settled down Giedo van der Garde’s eighth place was coming under prolonged attack from Alexander Rossi. The American had qualified fifth before a minor technical infringement relegated his QI-Meritus car to the back of the grid.
After 22 laps of green running the safety car was summoned to aid the recovery of the stranded Coloni of Alberto Valerio. The Brazilian had passed team mate Will Bratt earlier that lap but became enraged when Bratt recovered the position by going off the track.
The furious Valerio lifted both hands from the steering wheel in rage. He returned them to the controls but his anger had got the better of him and he spun to a halt a couple of corners later.
After just one lap the safety car returned to the pits and the race got going again – even while another driver, Daniel Zampieri, stalled his car not far from where Valerio had.
Turvey kept Valsecchi at bay on the restart and maintained his lead until the chequered flag. But a last-lap car failure robbed Filippi of a strong points finish. His qualifying session had also been spoiled by a car problem.
Bianchi claimed an excellent third place on his debut ahead of Villa and Ricci. Rossi finished sixth, moving ahead of van der Garde when the Barwa Addax driver lost control of his car under braking and hit the barriers.
Herck’s rather over-aggressive defense from Marcus Ericsson put the Swedish driver out of the race while Herck held onto seventh. That promoted Max Chilton into eighth place which gives him pole position for tomorrow’s shorter sprint race – unless the stewards get involved over the Herck-Ericsson collision, in which case ninth-placed Perez could benefit.
Turvey might have won the battle but Valsecchi retains the lead of the championship. After today’s exciting encounter expect an entertaining race tomorrow as the pair start from the fourth row.
Update: After the race Perez was handed a 25-second time penalty for ignoring yellow flags, dropping him to 12th in the final classification.
GP2 Asia Abu Dhabi feature race in pictures
Images (C) GP2/Drew Gibson, GP2/Alastair Staley