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GP Week : Issue 5
ROMAIN Grosjean is the inaugural GP2 Asia Series Champion. The Franco-Swiss RDD driver took his third win of the season in the Bahrain feature race to build a championship lead which, despite his retirement from Sunday’s sprint event, was enough to net him the title. Saturday’s race had begun poorly for the Frenchman. Having taken pole position on Friday, he was beaten to the first corner by fellow front-row sitter Karun Chandhok, and muscled out of second position by the Indian’s team-mate Bruno Senna by the end of the first lap. Grosjean’s 2008 main series team-mate, Luca Filippi, was less fortunate, as contact with Alberto Valerio left both men out after a couple of corners and led to the safety car being deployed while the mess was cleared up. Every driver bar Pavlovic, Yoshimoto and Puglisi came into the pits, and in the melee the leading duo of Chandhok and Senna dropped down the pack. Behind the non-stopped cars, it was Adrian Valles who made it out of the pits first, followed by Grosjean, Nunes, Fauzy and Kobayashi. Chandhok, meanwhile, had spun on his exit from the pits on cold tyres in a scene reminiscent of his faux pas at the opening race of the season in Dubai. Senna, who along with Vitaly Petrov stood the only real chance of mounting a challenge to Grosjean’s title hunt, was out of the points. Grosejan immediately made his move on Valles at the restart, soon passing the two non-stoppers into a lead he would never let go. With quiet determination, Senna had risen to the back of the fight for third and followed Kobayashi past Valles. As Yoshimoto took his compulsory stop, Buemi inherited second, placing Kobayshi third, Senna fourth, Valles fifth, Valsecchi sixth, Nunes seventh and Chandhok eighth. Grosjean held a 24-point lead going into Sunday, knowing that 20 points or more would see him crowned champion. He started tremendously. With Senna not even getting to the grid due to yet another frustrating car failure, Grosjean already had one less rival to fear and as Nunes punted Chandhok into a spin at the first corner and the field swerved to avoid the beleaguered Indian, Petrov and Grosjean flew through the dust and into the lead. He would watch the Russian’s rear wing for just three quarters of a lap, flying past at the final corner and into another ominous looking lead. Petrov was now the only man who could challenge Grosjean for the title,, but as Kobayshi took second from him, the championship looked headed back to ART Grand Prix. Then, suddenly, Grosjean slowed, a brake fluid leak leading to him losing almost all stopping power. He held on as long as he could, but dropped like a stone and eventually pulled into the pits to retire. Petrov needed second to take the championship to the final round in Dubai, but it was not to be. Kobayashi took the win, his second of the Asia series, with Buemi making it past Petrov to take second, the Russian settling for third ahead of an impressive Yoshimoto fourth, Schlegelmilch fifth and Valsecchi sixth. GP2: Birth of the Romain Empire 30