The Bridgestone e-reporter GP2 diary - Europe 24 Aug 2008
Since its inception in 2004, the GP2 Series has established itself as a serious breeding ground for Formula One talent - with the likes of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton as evidence. And official tyre suppliers to the series, Bridgestone, are helping to do the same for motorsport journalism, with their e-reporter competition.
The nine 2008 finalists will each get to report from one European round of the series, and will be supplying Formula1.com with details of the GP2 action, plus a diary reflecting their experience as a first-time paddock correspondent. For Europe, its 21 year-old Spanish writer, Tabatha Valls Halling...
Sunday race report - a race full of battles
Ready for more surprises? After everything that happened on Saturday in the feature race, with Giorgio Pantano not having enough fuel to finish, the sprint race was a promising proposition. The lights turned green for the second time at the new Valencia circuit and the cars started quite carefully - at least during the first few corners. Andy Soucek, who started second after yesterdays seventh place, managed to avoid an early crash even though he lost some positions. He was racing at home so he wanted to have a good race.
The Sunday show started straight away. Pastor Maldonado went directly into the wall ending his race, converting his happiness from Saturday (thanks to his great second position) into disappointment. The fight for lead between Luca Filippi and Romain Grosjean then got underway. Grosjean wasnt going to let Filippi have an easy drive.
Meanwhile Bruno Senna was threatening Soucek, fighting for fourth place. There wasnt time to rest. Adrian Valles and Sebastien Buemi went into each other also ending their race. Sakon Yamamoto and Soucek were the next to stop, while Grosjean and Filippi, together with Lucas Di Grassi, raced wheel to wheel fighting to lead the race.
After some perseverance, Grosjean finally passed Filippi, but all his work proved to be in vain after he hit a wall following another attack from the Trust Team Arden driver. Di Grassi was the one who really benefited from all this, as he took the lead of the race. Marko Asmer then lost control of his car and stopped it in the middle of the track, making it too dangerous to continue without the safety car.
With the emergence of the safety car, however, the distances between the runners all but disappeared, and when the safety car went back in Jerome DAmbrosio tried to get into second place by getting in front of Filippi but he didnt make it.
So in the end, Di Grassi crossed the finish line first, Filippi second and DAmbrosio, who found it great to keep improving, third. Filippi was happy because I really wanted this result. Unfortunately though, he would be eventually leave feeling disappointed, as he received a 25-second penalty for an illegal move. So DAmbrosio ended up second, and Pantano third. Even more suprises after crossing the finishing line. This is GP2.
Sunday diary - the dream comes to an end
All good things come to an end. Its a shame, but theres nothing one can do. But Im not going to be sad. These days here in Valencia have been one of the best experiences of my life, something I will never forget.
The day started very early in the morning again. As we arrived at the GP2 Paddock it reminded me straight away that I was leaving shortly, as everyone was busy starting to clear up. But Malcolm von Berg, Bridgestone fitting team leader in the GP2 Series, still had a bit of free time to explain how the tyres are organised. After that, it was time to watch the GP2 sprint race. After what had happened at the during Saturdays race, I thought it was going to be great. And it certainly was.
Immediately after the race it was time to speak to the drivers. Senna was a bit upset, while DAmbrosio and Filippi (at that point at least) were the exact opposite. The day ended with lunch and an interview with Mecachrome race engineer, Cyrille Lamouret. It couldnt have been better. The Formula One race started (what a shame that Fernando Alonso didnt even get to drive past where I was standing more than twice) and that meant it was the end; my dream had come to an end.
This has been a unique experience. To be studying journalism and to be able to have this opportunity was just unbelievable. I felt like a real journalist, even though I still have to study one more year. But I think there isnt a better way of learning than this, thats for sure. Thank you Bridgestone!
I would really like to thank everyone for these wonderful days. Thank you Bridgestone, and a special thanks to Clarisse Hoffmann, Debbie Beale, Alexa Quintin and everyone that makes this world possible - you are a really great family. Thank you for making my dream come true; for giving me the opportunity to live this world from the inside; for being able to work like a journalist, something I want to dedicate my life to; for being able to interview so many different and interesting people; for being able to see Alonso at such close range; and for getting to know and speak to Antonio Lobato from Telecinco, a journalist I have followed for years. Thank you for this unforgettable experience, and thank you for your passion for excellence.
Saturday race report - Petrov capitalises on Pantano fuel blunder
The time finally arrived. All the drivers were sitting in their cars ready for the lights to go green in Valencia. And to put even more emotion into the race, a few rain drops started to fall down from the sky at that precise moment. The start was thrilling, as the engines roared and the cars moved forward wheel to wheel, squeezing round the first curve. Kamui Kobayashi (DAMS) was the first to make a mistake, while Bruno Senna (iSport International) started to move up.
And the show started straight away. Sakon Yamamoto (ART Grand Prix) went into the wall and Javier Villa (Racing Engineering) didnt last long on the track. The safety car had to appear early in the second lap. Later on Davide Valsecchi (Durango) was able to just save himself from crashing against the wall, while Lucas Di Grassi (BARWA Intl Campos) went on a little excursion in a run-off area. But frights were also taking place in the pit lane, where Andy Soucek (Super Nova Racing) reacted quickly enough to avoid Karun Chandhok (iSport International) crashing into him on his way out of his pit stop.
Chandhok was subsequently given a drive-through penalty, while Romain Grosjean (ART Grand Prix) got in front of Pastor Maldonado after pitting. Some interesting fights then began, not only between these two drivers but also between Luca Filippi (Trust Team Arden) and Soucek. It was great wheel to wheel racing. Maldonado (Piquet Sport), not content with his current position, started attacking Grosjean for third place. The first time it didnt work, but after studying his movements for some time, Maldonado got past Grosjean, who couldnt avoid going off the track for some seconds. Meanwhile, Giorgio Pantano seemed to have secured first place since the beginning of the race. But that was only what it seemed.
What happened next was unbelievable. Pantano (Racing Engineering) suddenly slowed down on one of the last corners of the last lap of the race and gave away the victory to Vitaly Petrov (BARWA Intl Campos). Pantano ran out of fuel and didnt finish the race. The same happened to Senna, although he managed to just cross the finish line. Petrov was over the moon saying, I feel great, we did a great race, and surely Im going to celebrate it.
Maldonado finished in second position and was also very pleased, saying, I would like to have a good end of a season, so these nine points are very important. And about Pantano not being able to finish the race, he also said, GP2 is like that, you never know what can happen in a race, its always open. Pantanos disappointment contrasted with Petrovs smile. But as Maldonado says, This is GP2 and everything is possible.
Saturday diary - no words to describe what Im living
Another day has gone by. They say that when you are having a good time, time flies, and its definitely true. Im really enjoying this, and the hours go too quickly. The day started early in the morning in the GP2 Paddock. Everyone was getting things ready for the race in the afternoon. It was great to be able to see the mechanics practising pit stops, or speak to engineers about how they were getting the cars ready. After that, the next stop was at the Formula One village, where I accompanied Javier Villa, Andy Soucek, Adrian Valles and Diego Nunes to their driver signing session at Bridgestone.
Back in the busy GP2 Paddock, there was just enough time for a photo shoot next to the Bridgestone tyres before going for lunch at the Bridgestone motorhome over in the Formula One paddock. It was great to be able to sit next to Adrian Valles and Andy Soucek during lunch and talk about the afternoons race and how they were feeling. But that wasnt all. I also got the chance during lunch to chat with Spanish journalists that write for all the sports newspapers I read, such as Sport or Marca, as well as Tomas Zumarraga, the managing director of Bridgestone Spain. Being able to speak at the same time with drivers and journalists during lunch was a great experience.
In the afternoon, it was time to watch the GP2 race, which was great and had an unbelievable ending, and after that I got drivers post-race reactions. There was no time to rest. Just after that I was able to interview Racing Engineering team manager Alfonso de Orleans Borbon, who I think is a very interesting man and knows what hes doing. I found his interview so interesting I could have gone on forever. But no, here time is precious, for everyone.
This experience is amazing. Its a shame tomorrow is the last day. Im learning so much in so little time. Its just so easy to grow fond of this world. It makes you just want more and more. Unfortunately, the end is near. But for sure Im never going to forget any minute, any second.
Qualifying report - practice makes perfect
Valencia is a brand new circuit. There is a lot to learn and digest in very little time. And todays GP2 qualifying laps were filled with events, as drivers made contact with the track for the first time. All of them had everything studied but, as Pastor Maldonado (Piquet Sports) said before getting into his car, they needed to try it out as its completely new and different form the other circuits. So we dont know exactly how to regulate the car.
In fact, today nobody really knew what was going to happen. Andy Soucek (Super Nova Racing) said he had analysed all the compiled data, and the engineers at all the teams didnt know exactly what to expect and therefore had done more simulation work than for any other tracks on the calendar.
It wasnt long before we got to see the first mistakes. Early in the qualifying session Kamui Kobayashi (DAMS) drove too near the wall after a curve and hit his right-rear tyre. The track had not yet been measured by the drivers and the GP2 cars were difficult to control on a track that still had limited tyre grip. Carlos Iaconelli (BCN Competicion) and Karun Chandhok (iSport) were the next to check that the track was still a bit dirty and slid across it. Luckily, as Jerome DAmbrosio (DAMS) said, there are a lot of run-off areas, its a different type of circuit, in between a real street circuit like Monte Carlo and a normal circuit, because there are walls and you have to be careful as its easy to face into them. It certainly looked easy to do, with all the drivers brushing the walls on many occasions.
Luckily, the Valencia Street circuit also has run-off areas, and so many of the drivers mistakes were quickly solved, as they continued with the session. Alvaro Parente (Super Nova Racing) braked too late and also performed a slide in the middle of the track.
After a good fight with Maldonado, Giorgio Pantano (Racing Engineering) was able to secure first place for the first time in Valencia: Its great, and weve shown we can make the difference, said Pantano. But its still too soon to make any conclusions. Maldonado, Vitaly Petrov and Romain Grosjean seem to have good feelings and hope to have the same consistency they had on Friday for the race.
Friday diary - living the dream
Im finally in Valencia. After many months waiting for this day, it has arrived at last. Full of energy and eager to experience this world from the inside, we arrived at the GP2 Paddock early in the morning. Walking in, familiarising myself with the motorsport environment was the first step. And a quick chat with Alexa Quintin, GP2 media and communications manager, made me more than ready to get going.
I started by asking GP2 drivers and engineers their impressions about the new track and how they had prepared for it. Its great how freely you can walk around the paddock and ask questions to everyone you see. Theres just no problem and I felt like any other journalist doing their job. I was really surprised how kind everyone is here: drivers, engineers, Bridgestone or GP2 personnel, everyone has a bit of their precious time to share with you.
All the teams were getting ready for the first practice. Time had come. I felt I was in my element. The noise of the engines, the roar of the cars so near to you: its all a magical experience. And that was only the morning. We had lunch at the Bridgestone motorhome in the Formula One Paddock where it was great to be able to share a table with Adam Hay-Nicholls, a journalist who really looks for creative and original subjects to write about - something that I think is essential in journalism.
I also got to know a 2005 Bridgestone e-reporter finalist, Lawrence Barretto. After that I got to walk around the F1 paddock for a while; it is very different from the GP2 paddock. You really get to see how much luxury and money is involved here. Everything is less accessible, but it is really admirable. Its just a dream to be able to be here.
We went back to watch the GP2 qualifying session, and after that I interviewed the drivers who qualified on top. And then came one of the best moments of the day as I had the opportunity to interview Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone Director of Motorsport Tyre Development, as the European Grand Prix coincides with Bridgestones 200th race in Formula One.
It was really great to have this opportunity, and I very much enjoyed it. But that was not all. I got to speak with my favourite journalist, Antonio Lobato of Telecinco, who Ive followed on TV for many years, and on Saturday Ill have the chance to interview him. But thats tomorrow. Today has been too exciting and better than I would have ever expected. Im living a dream, and I dont want to wake up.
For more on the Bridgestone e-reporter competition, click here.