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GP Week : Issue 60
GP2: Advantage N year later. And at the weekend in Valencia, Nico Hülkenberg gave the world the clearest sign yet that he has every intention of following in their footsteps of winning the GP2 Series in his rookie year. The German is, quite frankly, N in breathtaking form at present. There just doesn’t appear to be anybody who can get close to him. In terms of raw out-andout pace, racecraft, maturity and determination, he is frighteningly competent. Rarely has anyone driven this well, impressed so roundly, or appeared to be doing so in such effortless style as the 21-year-old. If there were any questions as to whether he is the real deal, they are being answered with more conviction with every passing week. Pole position went to the German around the 5.419km ICO Rosberg first achieved it in 2005. Lewis Hamilton repeated the feat one Valencia street circuit. As a rookie, he may not have had the allimportant year of experience on the unique urban track, but he mastered its intricacies nonetheless. However, he had a stronger challenger than he realised. Vitaly Pertov may have been 0.4 seconds off him at the end of the session, but the Russian had been 0.2 seconds faster when his gearbox had given up on him in qualifying. At the start of the first race, one small glimpse of Hülkenberg’s inexperience made itself glaringly obvious as he out-braked himself into the first chicane, allowing Petrov into the lead. Amazingly, it was a lead Petrov would keep to the end. And not for want of trying on Hülkenberg’s side. Thirty one laps went by and the gap between the two was rarely more than half a second. But Petrov sucked up everything the German threw at him, and held on for the feature race win in Valencia which had been his in 2008 as well. Third place went to Arden’s Sergio Perez for his first ever GP2 Series podium, while Alvaro Parente took fourth, Roldan Rodriguez fifth, Edoardo Mortara sixth, Luca Filippi seventh and Kamui Kobayashi a belated eighth after the man who had actually finished in the final points position, Pastor Maldonado, was found to have a dodgy floor that was too low. Race 2 saw numerous Safety Cars and the usual GP2 scrapes, but it was Hulkenberg who again raced out of his skin, making up six places to win his fourth race of the season. Perez took second and Petrov third to set up an identical trio on the podium from race 1, albeit in different positions. With pole, two fastest laps, a second and a win, Hulkenberg was thus just one position away from another perfect race weekend in Valencia. And with Spa this weekend, he will be aiming to increase his championship lead yet further out of Petrov’s reach. The gap is 20 points, but Hülkenberg is already looking like a champion.