Coletti takes early GP2 points lead

Stefano Coletti has left Sepang as the early GP2 Series points leader after taking a win and a podium from the opening round of the season.

Coletti had led the majority of Saturday’s feature race before tyre problems dropped him to third in the closing stages, but the Monegasque driver bounced back in the sprint race, making a great start from sixth to lead the opening lap and the Rapax driver never lost the lead, holding off a charging Felipe Nasr in the closing stages to take the win.

Fabio Leimer’s win in the feature race leaves him in second place in the standings, 11 points behind Coletti, although he will be disappointed not to have left Malaysia as the points leader after a poor sprint race, which included a major excursion through the gravel, left him empty-handed.

It was also a sprint race to forget for James Calado, who after taking second behind Leimer on Saturday, crashed out after missing his braking point at turn four on the opening lap, an error which sent him hurtling into Julian Leal and Sam Bird, both of whom also retired. As punishment for that mistake, Calado has now been given a ten-place grid penalty for the next round in Bahrain.

Nasr lies third in the championship after a solid weekend, which started with a fourth place finish on Saturday and ended with him hounding Coletti home in the sprint race.

Mitch Evans was another to impress in Malaysia. The reigning GP3 champion, making his debut in the category, suffered with food poisoning during the weekend but managed to back up a tenth place finish on Saturday with third on Sunday, a performance that made him by far the most impressive rookie.

Further back, Stephane Richelmi and Simon Trummer both enjoyed solid starts to the season with two points finishes each, Conor Daly had a good sprint race in his first GP2 weekend by finishing seventh, and Rene Binder scored his first point in the series by following home Daly in eighth on Sunday.

The biggest disappointment of the weekend was Marcus Ericsson. The DAMS driver, tipped as a potential title contender after three solid years in GP2, crashed out on the opening lap of the feature race when he misjudged his braking at turn nine and hit Jolyon Palmer and retired, a result that the Swede could only back up with 13th in the sprint race.

With ten races to go and 26 drivers all wanting to show they are worthy of a crack at Formula One, the season is set up nicely.

Pole Position: Stefano Coletti (Mon) Rapax – 1:44.280

Feature Race (31 laps)
1) Fabio Leimer (Sui) Racing Engineering – 57:49.385 secs
2) James Calado (GB) ART Grand Prix – +2.045 secs
3) Stefano Coletti (Mon) Rapax – +11.271 secs
4) Felipe Nasr (Bra) Carlin – +12.810 secs
5) Julian Leal (Col) Racing Engineering – +28.837 secs
6) Jolyon Palmer (GB) Carlin – + 34.209 secs
7) Sam Bird (GB) Russian Time – +41.183 secs
8) Stephane Richelmi (Mon) DAMS – +58.941 secs
9) Simon Trummer (Sui) Rapax – +1:02.853 secs
10) Mitch Evans (NZ) Arden International – +1:13.730 secs
Fastest Lap: Sam Bird (GB) Russian Time – 1:48.777 (Lap 16)

Sprint Race (22 laps)
1) Stefano Coletti (Mon) Rapax – 40:49.455 secs
2) Felipe Nasr (Bra) Carlin – +0.832 secs
3) Mitch Evans (NZ) Arden Motorsport – +8.358 secs
4) Stephane Richelmi (Mon) DAMS – +11.935 secs
5) Johnny Cecotto Jr. (Ven) Arden International – +15.874 secs
6) Simon Trummer (Sui) Rapax – +17.072 secs
7) Conor Daly (USA) Hilmer Motorsport – +17.479 secs
8) Rene Binder (Aut) Venezuela GP Lazarus – +23.726 secs
Fastest Lap: Stefano Coletti (Mon) Rapax – 1:50.203 (Lap 5)

Championship Standings
1) Stefano Coletti (Mon) Rapax – 36 pts
2) Fabio Leimer (Sui) Racing Engineering – 25 pts
3) Felipe Nasr (Bra) Carlin – 24 pts
4) James Calado (GB) ART Grand Prix – 18 pts
5) Stephane Richelmi (Mon) DAMS – 12 pts
6) Mitch Evans (NZ) Arden International – 11 pts
7) Julian Leal (Col) Racing Engineering – 10 pts
8) Jolyon Palmer (GB) Carlin – 8 pts
9) Sam Bird (GB) Russian Time – 8 pts
10) Johnny Cecotto Jr. (Ven) Arden International – 6 pts
11) Simon Trummer (Sui) Rapax – 6 pts
12) Conor Daly (USA) Hilmer Motorsport – 2 pts
13) Rene Binder (Aut) Venezuela GP Lazarus – 1 pts

Stephen D’Albiac

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