Red Bulletin: GP2 Powerslide Challenge

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With nine different winners in 11 races, this year’s GP2 championship is as unpredictable as it is exciting. We decided to make it even more exciting, and a little sillier.

It’s half term for Formula One’s feeder series and the top six drivers are separated by 28 points – with 80 points still in the offing, who will come out on top is anyone’s guess.

But guesses are, by definition, not based on hard facts. At the Red Bulletin we like to deal with more scientific forms of measurement. So we took the boys to a water park to see who really is the fastest.

Taking to the slides at Budapest’s Aquarena water park, right next door to the Hungaroring, were the top six in the current standings: Timo Glock for iSport (53 points), Lucas di Grassi for ART (46), Luca Filippi for Super Nova (35), Giorgio Pantano for Campos Racing (28), Pastor Maldonado for Trident (25) and Kazuki Nakajima for Dams (25).

With two practice sessions, the drivers had the opportunity to study the six-lane ‘Big Splash’ slide. The characteristics of the surface were wet and bumpy – a challenging mixture which made the young racers nervous, yet gave those who raced in Hungary last year an experience advantage. Given Di Grassi’s home track is Interlagos, would the bumps work in his favour? Maldonado’s skill in dealing with tight consecutive corners, as highlighted by his win at Monaco this year, was unlikely to be rewarded here – the course was a flat out drag race where sharp changes in direction would relegate the pilot to the back.

In terms of pre-race preparation, Felippi impressed most. He had stuck his race number 16 on his back, not only for identification purposes but also to reduce traction – a key element where successful sliding differs from racing on asphalt. In addition, he came with a tube of sun block that had cunningly had its name Tip Ex-ed out and the words ‘Super Glue’ written on it. Hilarious and practical. It meant no one would dare steal it.

We saw several contrasting set-ups for Race One, with Di Grassi opting to hang from the starting gantry like a monkey and use gravity to thrust him down the shoot stretched out to his full 180 cm. Glock went for a minimum surface area strategy, lifting his legs and arms with only his bottom in contact with the floor. Maldonado went down on his side in a torpedo shape. Nakajima rolled into a little ball, while Pantano and Felippi went freestyle and looked, frankly, out of control.

As the race director went to blow his whistle, Glock swung from the gantry and was ready to go. But an unforeseen split-second delay meant he had to hold on and got bogged down when the whistle finally went. He was overtaken by the entire field and was forced to play catch up. But the BMW reserve driver can never be discounted. Just like at the Nurburgring, when he was passed at the start but still took the win thanks to a series of punishingly fast laps before his pit stop, here Glock’s natural pace saw him glide back through the field.

The finishing order, which earned the standard Race One GP2 points scheme, was as follows:

  1. Lucas di Grassi (BRA) – 10
  2. Pastor Maldonado (VEN) – 8
  3. Timo Glock (GER) – 6
  4. Giorgio Pantano (ITA) – 5
  5. Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) – 4
  6. Luca Filippi (ITA) – 3

Afterwards, Felippi had a debrief with his physio to determine exactly where he was losing speed. Meanwhile, despite his success, Di Grassi still saw room for improvement. “As I was going up for Race Two I saw some kids actually jumping down the slide, and they looked much quicker.”

Nakajima was struggling with a ballast problem. At only 62kg he was the lightest driver here, and therefore at a disadvantage. Glock, meanwhile, had boasted about adding extra ballast to his shorts, the details of which he kept to himself. At 75kg, the well-toned Di Grassi was clearly the man to beat. Just like his stealthy GP2 performances this year, this quiet young man had come out of nowhere to take victory and approached Race Two with confidence.

Again, victory was his. The second round saw Glock perform to his true potential but he still failed to catch the impressive Brazilian. Di Grassi, known for his amazing consistency having only failed to score once this season, was on fire. Pantano was characteristically flamboyant to watch, but he just couldn’t find the speed today. Possibly distracted by the bikini-clad locals, he resorted to inspecting the finish line photos, convinced he must have been quicker. He could only take heart in not coming last. That position fell to Williams test driver Kazuki-san. Nakajima, so skilled at racing on worn tyres, just wasn’t at home today despite the lack of grip. If he’s to win at this game, he simply needs to eat more.

The finishing order, which earned the standard Race Two GP2 points scheme, was as follows:

  1. Lucas di Grassi (BRA) – 6
  2. Timo Glock (GER) – 5
  3. Pastor Maldonado (VEN) – 4
  4. Luca Filippi (ITA) – 3
  5. Giorgio Pantano (ITA) – 2
  6. Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) – 1

It was a totally dominant performance from Lucas di Grassi who, thanks to our barometer, is now clearly the favourite for this year’s title. “This has really boosted my confidence”, said Lucas semi-seriously. “I’m pleased to be the favourite and now, after today, I’d better hope for a wet race this weekend.”

THE FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Lucas di Grassi (BRA) – 16
  2. Pastor Maldonado (VEN) – 12
  3. Timo Glock (GER) – 11
  4. Giorgio Pantano (ITA) – 7
  5. Luca Filippi (ITA) – 6
  6. Nakajima (JPN) – 5
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