The fifth and penultimate round of the 2008/09 GP2 Asia Series took place this weekend in Malaysia as GP2 took to the Sepang Circuit as a support to the Formula One World Championship.
Fisichella Motor Sport International fielded Rodolfo Gonzalez and Kevin Chen to face the challenge of the awesome 5.543km track, one hour from Kuala Lumpur. Dams' Kamui Kobayashi set the pace in Friday morning's 30-minute free practice session, which was problem-free but held in stifling heat and humid weather conditions.
Rodolfo competed 16 laps during the half hour, setting a fastest lap of 1:48.374s, which was 1.942s off the best lap of the morning. Kevin got 10 laps under his belt, setting a best time of 1:50.413. As qualifying loomed, rainfall overcame the circuit, making the beginning of the session a wet affair.
Most cars therefore headed out later on in the session when the circuit was at its fastest and most dry. Rodolfo set a time of 1:46.053 to secure a seventh row starting spot from 14th. Kevin will begin from 25th after recording a lap of 1:49.642. Saturday's 33 lap feature race was thankfully held in dry conditions which allowed the GP2 field to race cleanly. Rodolfo made steady progress throughout and crossed the line in tenth position, just two places outside of the points and an improvement of four positions from his starting slot.
Kevin also made good progress, crossing the line in 20th, gaining five positions over the 33 laps. Sunday's sprint race was a very different affair, held under heavy rainfall and in typical Malaysian stormy conditions. Starting from tenth position, Rodolfo was able to stay out of trouble on the treacherous track and cross the line after 22 laps in eighth position, again just outside of the points. Unfortunately Kevin was forced to retire on lap five.
The season finale will take place from 24-26 April at the Bahrain International Circuit, when GP2 Asia once again supports the F1 race. Paolo Coloni, Team Principal: "I'm very happy with the team's performance over the weekend and especially with Rodolfo today. He performed very well in difficult conditions, running in the top six for most of the time. It's a shame that we didn't come out of the race with a point. Nevertheless I am encouraged by the continual improvement and look forward to Bahrain now."
Saturday Race Result
1. Diego Nunes (Piquet GP)2. Kamui Kobayashi (Dams)3. James Jakes (Super Nova Racing)10. Rodolfo Gonzalez (FMSI)20. Kevin Chen (FMSI)
Sunday Race Result
1. Vitaly Petrov (Barwa International Campos Team)2. Pastor Maldonado (ART Grand Prix)3. Davide Valsecchi (Durango)8. Rodolfo Gonzalez (FSMI)DNF. Kevin Chen (FMSI)