Racing Engineering Sochi GP2 Round Up

A great recovery drive from Stefano in today’s Sprint race at Sochi.

Following yesterday’s Feature Race where he finished an excellent 3rd Lello was starting from 6th on the reversed grid for today’s 21 lap Sprint Race while Stefano’s unfortunate retirement with an electrical problem saw him starting from the back of the grid in 25th place with a lot of work to do to get into the points. The weather continued to be hot and sunny with air and track temperatures of 22° and 42° respectively. The favoured tyre for today’s shorter race was the harder Pirelli P Zero White option.

Lello lost several places dropping to 9th as the start got underway and a number of cars went wide into the first corner making overtaking difficult but the young Italian soon began to gain places passing Negrão and several other cars to lie 6th at the end of the first lap just behind Evans and ahead of Berthon. Lello was now putting pressure on Evans and at the end of lap 3 the gap was just 0.3 seconds and he had pulled 1.2 seconds ahead of Nasr. The young Italian was now involved in a tense battle with a group of cars battling for second with five cars separated by just over two seconds.

A stop-go penalty for Leal saw Lello promoted to 5th on lap 7 but a spin into the final corner saw him drop to 10th and he then lost two more places so that he was now in 12th spot on lap 11, the half distance point. The Racing Engineering car passed Cecotto and the retirement to Canamasas moved him up to 10th on lap 13 and by lap 16 he was just 0.3 seconds behind Sato. However on the next lap Markelov moved over on Lello causing contact which resulted in a puncture to the rear right tyre and as he braked for the next corner the Racing Engineering car spun off and made heavy contact with the barrier resulting in retirement, fortunately without injury, for Lello.

Stefano made a clean start but he was forced to run wide into the first corner as several cars went off track and he was lying 23rd at the end of the first lap. By lap 4 the Racing Engineering car was up to 20th and challenging Haryanto and he soon passed the Caterham car and he now closed in on Ellinas who he passed on lap 7 to lie 18th. The young Monegasque then took passed another car and the penalty to Leal saw him in 16th on lap 9 and his next target was Abt who was 1.8 seconds ahead. Stefano quickly caught the Hilmer driver and passed both the German and his teammate Lancaster putting him in 14th place.

Stefano, who gained a place with the retirement of Canamasas, was now closing on Cecotto in 12th and he set his fastest lap of the race so far on lap 15 as he gained a place following the retirement of his teammate but with the Safety Car now deployed he closed the gap to Cecotto and with just two laps remaining racing resumed and he was immediately up to 11th as Cecotto retired and he then passed both Gasly and Markelov and one more overtaking manoeuvre saw him crossing the finishing line in 8th to take the final point after a brilliant recovery drive from the back of the field.

The final round of the 2014 GP2 Series will be in Abu Dhabi on the Yas Marina circuit in six weeks’ time.

Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering:"This was a very eventful race for us. Stefano had a good recovery from the last row to 8th and showed a strong pace during his fight through the field. A pity Lello’s race didn’t bring the points we expected and it finished in an accident due to the puncture caused by a contact with Markelov."

Raffaele Marciello:"This was a quite bad race for us. I started like yesterday, so not so well, losing some positions. I recovered well during the opening laps and was back in P6. Our pace was not bad, but when I spun in the last corner, I dropped back to 11th place. And when I had contact with another car, I was out of the race.”

Stefano Coletti:"It was a fun race. I had a quite good start and good first corners. Unfortunately, I was hit by another car in turn 4 and lost several places; I think some 11 or 12, when I was already up to P11. I then started to push and my car was quite quick so I went from P25 to P8. I am very happy about this race.”

An excellent 3rd place for Lello in Sochi Feature Race.The weather was similar to Friday’s qualifying with air and track temperatures of 22° and 32° respectively.

Lello was starting from 5th using the Pirelli P Zero Yellow softer tyre compound while Stefano, who was starting from 8th, had the harder Pirelli P Zero White option. The race had been reduced to 28 laps due to concerns about fuel consumption.

As the lights went off Lello lost a place to Evans but he finished the opening lap in 6th, 0.5 seconds behind Evans and 0.6 seconds ahead of Nasr. The young Italian was soon pressuring the Russian Time driver and on lap 4 the gap was still just 0.6 seconds with Nasr 0.7 seconds further back.

As the Safety Car took to the track on lap 8 following Stefano’s retirement Lello dived into the pits for his mandatory pitstop switching to the harder Pirelli P Zero White tyres. As Lello returned to the track he was lying 9th, still right behind Evans and just ahead of Pic but, more importantly, he was lying 3rd amongst the cars that had taken their pitstops. Racing resumed on lap 11 and at the end of the lap Lello was still in 9th and battling hard with Pic and Negrão and as he started lap 12 he lost a place to the Frenchman dropping to 10th but on lap 14 he took advantage of the Campos car running wide to regain the position.

Lello was now closing in on Cecotto who had yet to pit but his real target was Evans who was 2.7 seconds ahead of the Racing Engineering car but he was losing time behind the Venezuelan whilst Evans, who was in clear air, was able to lap faster. By lap 18 the gap to Cecotto was 0.6 seconds but Evans was now 5.6 seconds ahead and Lello’s chances of 2nd place were looking slim. On lap 21 Cecotto pitted and Lello immediately set his fastest lap of the race showing that he had been held up by the Trident car. With two laps to go Lello moved up to 3rd as Ellinas pitted and he was now 2.0 seconds ahead of Pic and he crossed the finishing line to take the 3rd step of the podium which he had vowed to do for his close friend Jules Bianchi.

Stefano made a clean start and part way round the first lap he passed Negrão but lost a place to Nasr who appeared to cut the corner as he passed the young Monegasque driver. By lap 5 Stefano, on his harder tyres, had dropped to 2.4 seconds behind Nasr but he was beginning to lap faster than the Carlin driver and two laps later the gap was down to 1.2 seconds as it was announced that Nasr would have to serve a stop-go penalty for infringing the track limits. Just as it looked as if everything was going Stefano’s way he pulled off to the side of the track with an electrical problem causing a Safety Car deployment.

Following his excellent 3rd place in today’s race Lello will start 6th on tomorrow’s reversed grid in the 21 lap Sprint Race and he will be looking for another podium place. For Stefano, his early retirement will mean he will start from 25th on the grid but, as ever, he will fight as hard as possible to get into the points.

Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering:"It’s good to have Lello finishing on the podium again but a pity to see Stefano retiring due to an alternator belt failure that could not be anticipated. The team reacted well and quickly to the safety car period, calling Lello into the pits immediately and therefore putting him in a good virtual position. The pit-stop was fine and Lello did a good job on track, especially during the crazy laps after the restart. Real pace was not really shown as Lello was always following other drivers but we believe there is a good potential for another strong result tomorrow. Stefano's pace after the first laps was improving and he felt he could have done a very good race, he will do his best tomorrow to recover from the back of the grid."

Raffaele Marciello:"The start was OK as I think it was better to lose a position or two there instead of ten by risking too much. I had a good opening lap, where I recovered the positions lost at the start. The safety car helped a bit afterwards. I fought hard for a position with Pic after, which allowed me to finish on the podium today. I am really happy with this 3rd position, as it was my goal to finish on the podium today - for Jules. This podium is dedicated to him.”

Stefano Coletti:"Not one of the best starts I’ve had this season, but I managed to keep my position. I was actually virtually in P7 as Nasr was given a drive through penalty. My car went quicker and quicker and I was faster than the cars in front of me. But then I suddenly suffered from an electric problem and the car just stopped.”

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