Caterham Racing on top in Barcelona
Giedo van der Garde snatched an against the odds victory with the help of a strong start and a smart pit strategy to claim the feature race win today in Barcelona ahead of poleman James Calado and Stefano Coletti.
The paddock held its breath as the lights went out, and a few of the drivers did too: Calado and fellow front row starter Fabio Leimer struggled to get away, with the Englishman moving sharply across the track to stop his rival finding a way by, while behind them Stéphane Richelmi and Max Chilton were even slower to move off the line.
Van der Garde and Coletti, however, made perfect starts to slide behind the front row pair into turn one, ahead of series leader Davide Valsecchi, Chilton, Nathanaël Berthon and Fabio Onidi as the field shook itself out for the long race ahead, with the teams now looking at pit strategy to gain an advantage.
Felipe Nasr was the first man to stop on lap 11, and 2 laps later the front pair came in together for their stop: Calado's pits were closest to the pit entry, so he was in and out as Leimer was released, with the pair running side by side in the pitlane until Leimer conceded and chased his rival onto the track again. Most of their rivals came in on the next lap, including van der Garde: the Dutchman's choice of changing the rears only compared to Calado's 4 tyres made the difference next time around as he stole the lead.
With the stops shaken out the order was van der Garde, Calado, Leimer, Coletti, Valsecchi, Berthon, Onidi, Chilton, Nigel Melker and Luiz Razia, but there were more surprises to come as first Leimer was handed a drive through, his team judged to have made an unsafe release in the pits, and then Melker was similarly stung for speeding in the pitlane.
For the final 10 laps or so it looked like you could throw a blanket over the top three, and everyone was waiting to see if tyre wear would be the deciding difference, but van der Garde held on for a mature victory just 0.8 seconds ahead of Calado and Coletti when the flag dropped. Behind them Valsecchi took more points for a lonely fourth place ahead of Berthon, while Onidi, Chilton and Razia finished line astern, with Jolyon Palmer and Esteban Gutierrez claiming the final points.
In the drivers' championship Valsecchi sails on in the lead with 119 points, ahead of Razia (87), Calado (61), Gutierrez (57) and van der Garde (56), while the fight for the teams' title is hotting up as DAMS leads Lotus GP 147 points to 118, with Arden (88), Carlin (67) and Caterham (56) scrapping behind them.