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GP Week : Issue 27
GP2: Grosjean, Maldonado share wins ROMAIN Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado wrapped up the wins at Spa, but the 2008 Belgian GP2 races won’t just be remembered for their excellent drives. Instead, the weekend will likely be remembered most vividly for the decisions of the race stewards, which saw the two leading title challengers leave the circuit without scoring any points in either race. The weekend had got off to a good start for Bruno Senna. Second quickest in qualifying, he was promoted to pole when team-mate Karun Chandhok, who had set a blistering pace to take top spot, was sent back 15 places on the grid – a combination of a 10-place penalty held over from Valencia, and five spots for a yellow flag infringement. With championship leader Giorgio Pantano back in fourth, things looked good for the first race and Senna was glad of the two points for pole. Unsurprisingly for Belgium, it rained pretty hard on Saturday afternoon. With that in mind, the race was started behind the Safety Car, and when racing got underway Senna held his lead easily, pulling away from Alvaro Parente. On lap 6, the pitlane opened and on a drying track Andi Zuber was the first to pit for slicks. Over the next two laps all his rivals followed suit, but it was in the pits that the first penalty came to play. Senna came in with Pantano, and as the championship duo battled to be the first out, Senna was released into the path of Durango’s Davide Valsecchi. A combination of timing and slicks on a wet pit-lane meant the Brazilian failed to get sufficient traction, and he slowed to avoid an incident. Regardless, he was handed a drive-through penalty for an “unsafe release” from his stop. Senna had emerged in the lead with Pantano now up to second, but when 28 Valsecchi ran off and into the barriers at huge speed, the Safety Car came out and Senna was spared an immediate call into the pits as penalties cannot be taken under caution. As Pantano tried to figure out why Senna had not pitted he allowed his temperatures to drop too low and the engine went into safety mode. He got going again, but had fallen to10th. Worse was to follow. When racing did actually resume, the Italian got crossed up under braking for La Source, and slammed into eighth placed Lucas di Grassi, forcing the Brazilian out on the spot. With Senna taking his penalty he finished out of the points. So too was Pantano, and the stewards later excluded him from the entire weekend for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” Grosjean, pictured right, came through for the win ahead of Parente and Zuber, although Zuber was later kicked out for a minor repair to his nosecone which the stewards decreed had not been made in line with the regulations. That handed third to Maldonado. With all the penalties dished out, and Zuber sent to the back of the grid, Pantano not starting and Senna out of contention for meaningful points, Race 2 was always going to be a non-event. It was a shame as the racing was actually pretty good, Maldonado, above, rising above yet more rain to record a brilliant victory after snatching the win from local hero Jerome d’Ambrosio on the final lap. Senna retired after connecting with an über-defensive Buemi, while Grosjean raced hard and slightly wildly for nil return. All that leaves the title battle on a knife edge going into the final weekend. Pantano leads Senna by 11 points, with Grosjean and di Grassi tied for third a further seven points back from Senna.