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GP Week : Issue 63
NICO Hulkenberg has taken the 2009 GP2 Series championship, extending his lead over his sole title rival Vitaly Petrov to an insurmountable total with just one race weekend of the season remaining. While Hulkenberg's achievement in sealing the title is impressive in itself, the fact that he is the first driver in history to wrap up the championship before the final weekend of a season has set him apart from his predecessors. But the German didn't have it all his own way. Petrov was in fighting mood in Italy, and despite suffering from a mosquito bite which had become infected, requiring his left forearm to be heavily bandaged for the whole weekend, he set the pace in qualifying to record his first ever GP2 pole, and take the two points that come with it. His gap to Hulkenberg was cut to 25 points with pole position, but the weekend's first race would have to wait. A heavy rainstorm hit Monza shortly before the race was due to get underway and the race start was delayed for 40 minutes. When it finally began under the Safety Car, Petrov led the field away in extremely tricky conditions, with Geido van der Garde hot on his tail. Behind them the race start could have gone horribly wrong for Hulkenberg as Sergio Perez spun in front of him on the run down to the first chicane. Incredibly Perez missed Hulkenberg, and in fact every other car in the spray. It was a miracle his exit from the race didn't take more drivers with him. The 32 lap contest was one of the most exciting witnessed in the 2009 championship, a result of the wet conditions, and the leaders left their compulsory stops until the last laps. Van der Garde was the first to jump in, and the iSport team pulled off a perfect stop. Petrov's stop was equally as impressive, and yet the Russian emerged behind Van der Garde. He'd been held up by almost five seconds on his in lap by the spinning Michael Herck. Third went to Lucas di Grassi with d'Ambrosio and Mortara fourth and fifth having started 21st and 22nd . That left Hulkenberg in sixth and so the championship gap was cut down to 20 points, with 27 left to play for. Amazing starts from both Hulkenberg and Petrov in the Sunday race saw the championship rivals sit third and fourth as ahead of them di Grassi fought to get past pole-sitter Razia. All Hulkenberg needed to seal the title was to stay ahead of Petrov ... and that's precisely what he did. Try as he might Petrov couldn't find a way through, and ultimately ran wide at Lesmo falling to fifth and watching his hopes of taking the fight to the last weekend evaporate. Razia put in a bold performance for the win ahead of di Grassi and a justifiably delighted Hulkenberg, who was so excited to have won the title he erroneously parked his car in Razia's race winning parc ferme slot. You could forgive him for the error, as Razia graciously did. Hulkenberg was the champion, P1, numero uno. Parking his car behind the numbered pit board for the best driver in the field was something he'd been doing all season. In Monza, he did so as champion. Champion! 28