Sepang, Race 1: Giovinazzi glows in Sepang
Italian rookie takes fifth GP2 win as PREMA Racing grab Series title
PREMA Racing driver Antonio Giovinazzi resumed his impressive form at Sepang International Circuit: the Italian denied Sergey Sirotkin on the final lap of an action-packed Feature Race to score a fifth win his Series debut season. Behind the pair, Norman Nato completed the podium from seventh on the grid.
At the start, poleman Pierre Gasly made a poor getaway whilst Raffaele Marciello stormed past him and Giovinazzi to take the lead into Turn 1. However, the Italian driver from RUSSIAN TIME ran a bit too wide in the second corner leaving enough room for a charging Giovinazzi to go P1. As Marciello tried to fight back, Sirotkin came into the mix and overtook the Italian for P2.
During the opening laps, the Russian driver kept close to Giovinazzi, maintaining a gap smaller than 1 second until the Italian put together a string of fastest laps to stay clear of the DRS zone. Sirotkin pitted on lap 8 for some Hard Pirelli tyres. Marciello did the same a lap later, but a gun issue on the front left jeopardised his race.
Giovinazzi came into the pits from the lead on lap 11 and re-joined just behind Sirotkin, the first of the pitted drivers. Luca Ghiotto and Mitch Evans were then leading the race having started on Prime tyres and once they came in to switch to Medium compounds, Sirotkin was into the lead ahead of Giovinazzi and Nato. Behind the trio, the battle heated up between Oliver Rowland and Alex Lynn with the DAMS driver putting huge pressure on the MP man until the latter lost P4 to Lynn. Rowland fought back going side by side with his countryman down the main straight and reclaiming his position into Turn 1. But it wouldn’t stick: Lynn found another way past Rowland two corners later.
The MP driver started to struggle on his tyres and he was unable to stop first Marciello and then Jordan King. At the front, Giovinazzi closed the gap on Sirotkin until he was able to make a move around the outside of Turn 2. The Russian tried to defend but the Italian kept his foot down and claimed the lead with only two laps to go. He easily pulled away, surviving a small scare as he ran a bit wide whilst Sirotkin secured second place - 8 seconds ahead of Nato at the chequered flag.
The closing lap was action-packed behind Lynn in fourth place: King made his way through on Marciello as Rowland was all over Ghiotto for P7. The Briton pushed a bit too hard and lost the rear of his car letting through Evans (from P16 on the grid), Gustav Malja and Sergio Canamasas who was quite pleased to take the final point available from P19 on the grid.
In parc fermé, Giovinazzi jumped on his car in delight to celebrate another victory adding 25 points to his tally. With teammate and title rival Gasly struggling for grip and pace today and having finished to a lowly P11, the Italian driver takes the lead in the standings on 189 points to 178 for the Frenchman. Marciello remains third on 138 ahead of Sirotkin on 135 points, King on 122 and Nato also on 122. In the teams’ standings, PREMA Racing have already done enough to become champions on their first season in the Series with 367 points. Racing Engineering currently lies second on 267 points, ahead of RUSSIAN TIME on 226 and ART Grand Prix on 197.
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