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The Bridgestone e-reporter GP2 diary - Germany 12 Jul 2009

Bridgestone e-reporter finalist Kate Goodacre, German Grand Prix, 11 July 2009 © Bridgestone Bridgestone e-reporter finalist Kate Goodacre interviews GP2 driver Giedo van der Garde, German Grand Prix, 11 July 2009 © Bridgestone Bridgestone e-reporter finalist Kate Goodacre with Toyota F1 driver Jarno Trulli, German Grand Prix, 11 July 2009 © Bridgestone Bridgestone e-reporter finalist Kate Goodacre, German Grand Prix, 10 July 2009 © Bridgestone Bridgestone e-reporter finalist Kate Goodacre, German Grand Prix, 10 July 2009 © Bridgestone

Since its inception in 2005, 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.

Eight of the 2009 finalists will each get to report from one 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 Germany, it’s 24-year-old English writer, Kate Goodacre...

Sunday race report - Nico’s King of the Ring
Nico Hulkenberg took the lead of the GP2 drivers’ championship at Germany’s Nurburgring after a stunning victory in today’s sprint race.

The ART driver went four points clear of Barwa-Addax’s Romain Grosjean in the drivers’ standings after dominating this weekend’s qualifying and Saturday’s race. Grosjean finished fifth in today’s race.

“We’ve had a very good car and a very good set-up for all conditions this weekend, which is very good news,” said Hulkenberg. “It was the perfect weekend. It’s motivating us more and keeps our motivation up to work as hard as we did before - which is what we’ll do!”

Alvaro Parente capitalised on wet and gloomy conditions to finish in second place for Ocean Racing - his first podium of the season. A delighted Parente said: “It all fell together this weekend. We have the speed to score points every time. We’ll keep working and see if we can keep scoring points to the end of the season.”

Reigning GP2 Asia Series champion Kamui Kobayashi took third place for DAMS - also his first top three finish of the year.

Vitaly Petrov had a great start to lead the race, but he was given a drive-through penalty on lap 10 for a collision with Lucas De Grassi off the start line. Petrov later climbed back up to third place but spun whilst pushing Parente and Kobayashi for a podium position, eventually finishing fourth.

Alberto Valerio set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap with a time of 1m 46.200s, having driven on slicks for the whole race. “The first lap was quite difficult because we had brand new tyres,” Valerio said. “Then it started to rain a little bit again during the race. We had a little bit of fun at the end. It was OK - I was learning!”

Saturday Diary
My morning starts alongside the ‘fantastic four’ of Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean, Giedo van der Garde and Andreas Zuber as they attend a packed signing session in the Formula One Village. It’s so heartwarming to see very young children grinning as they meet their heroes in person. It’s also the perfect opportunity to indulge in a spot of documentary photography, my favourite hobby ever since I first held my mum’s camera, aged just four.

A bit of writing follows, then it’s off to Bridgestone’s Formula One motorhome for lunch with Rachel Ingham, who’s Press and Marketing Manager at Bridgestone, and Peter. We’re joined by two very experienced journalists, Ed Gorman and Tom Cary, who are only too happy to share pearls of wisdom with a young upstart such as myself.

After another wander down the Formula One pit lane (including a sighting of Michael Schumacher), it’s time for the feature race. Naturally, the adrenalin rush kicks in as I chase down Romain Grosjean, Vitaly Petrov and more for post-race thoughts. I might as well quit the gym. I barely go, anyway.

Interviews with Mark Sims and Matt Scott from Arden (talking about a mechanic’s race weekend), Giedo van der Garde and the post-race press conference swiftly follow, so it’s a hectic two hours. Even the prospect of a late-night typing session doesn’t seem that bad. Who could complain about one late night after a weekend like this?

I really must thank everyone who’s taken the time to talk to me - especially when they’ve been busy, or it hasn’t been the best of days. And special thanks to Deborah Lyall from Arden who rescued and returned my handbag (contents: my passport, purse and numerous other important items). It’s not because I’m forgetful, honest. I blame it on the buzz motorsport gives you. It’s positively infectious.

Saturday race report - Home triumph for Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg stormed to a convincing maiden GP2 victory at the Nurburgring in Saturday’s feature race, boosting his title hopes in the process.

The ART driver looked assured of the win from the outset as he quickly pulled away from the rest of the field. “I was surprised by the speed we had compared to the others,” he said. “The team gave me a great car, and we just put it all together and took a great victory.”

Hulkenberg is now just a point behind Romain Grosjean in the championship, but he added: “It’s better to think race-by-race. I won’t put myself or the team under more pressure, we will just keep doing the same as we’re doing now.”

A close early battle between Lucas De Grassi and Roldan Rodriguez finished in Rodriguez’s favour as he took second place and his first podium of the season. De Grassi later struggled on cold tyres after his pit stop and slipped to an eventual seventh place.

Andreas Zuber drove a solid race to finish in a ‘safe’ third place for FMS International.
Barwa Addax driver Vitaly Petrov finished fourth, securing vital points in his quest for the championship. He said: “We had a very good start and overtook some people. Then on the first corner, I was a little bit pushed out. But the race is finished and we’ve got points so tomorrow we’ll try to take more.”

Petrov’s team mate and championship leader Grosjean made it up to sixth from 14th on the grid but he retired with just two laps to go after a gearbox problem. “I suddenly got stuck in neutral,” he said. “I lost upshift, downshift, the clutch, nothing was working anymore. It was a bit of a shame to finish like this, because tomorrow would have been interesting.”

Friday Diary
Today starts in the F1 paddock, and although it’s free practice there’s lots going on. Jarno Trulli, Bridgestone’s Hirohide Harashima and BMW-Sauber technical director Willy Rampf all pay Bridgestone a visit for Q&A sessions with journalists including e-reporter judge Jan Kotulla. Then we visit the Red Bull garage to see an F1 team in action - a truly fascinating experience.

My first visit to the GP2 paddock happens to coincide with the end of free practice. It’s bustling with activity - the F1 paddock seems surprisingly serene in comparison. Trucks loaded with tyres speed past, fans wait outside the garages for autographs and teams make final tweaks to their cars before qualifying.

After photographing the F1 practice session from high above the circuit, it’s time for GP2 qualifying. The live timing service on the official GP2 website proves extremely useful during a fast-moving qualifying session.

Peter’s advice to run and be assertive to get post-qualifying quotations from drivers becomes crucial as they disappear into post-race briefings. I feel hopelessly unfit! Javier Villa’s my first post-qualifying voxpop, and my heart’s pounding so much from the adrenalin rush I feel like I’ve done an hour’s cardio workout at the gym. It’s still a little daunting, truth be told, but hopefully in the aftermath of tomorrow’s race I’ll be a bit more confident.

The day finishes with a post-qualifying press conference featuring the top three drivers on the grid, plus a wonderful chat with James Robinson. James has worked with Formula One world champions including Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve. He’s now at GP2 team FMS, and his desire to help talented young drivers is evident.

So, back to Bonn to do some work, followed by a well-earned rest. I’ll be chasing after GP2 drivers in my dreams tonight.

Qualifying report - Nico on pole at the Nurburgring
Nico Hulkenberg made a late charge to claim pole for Saturday’s GP2 feature race at his home circuit.

The ART driver took his second pole of the season just five minutes before the end of the session with a time of 1m 38.561s. "To be on pole at home is nice, but I’m not making such a big deal about it being a home race,” he said. “It’s always great to be in pole position."

The top three were close, with Roldan Rodriguez less than a tenth behind in second for Piquet GP while early pacesetter Lucas De Grassi qualified third for Fat Burner. A pleased Rodriguez said: "We can win the race so I’ll push hard."

The track temperature, at just 19 degrees Celsius, posed a challenge for the drivers, in addition to light rain just before the start of the session.

Javier Villa qualified in fifth place for Super Nova - his best grid slot of the season. He said: “The biggest difficulty for us was warming the tyres. We needed a lot of laps to build up to a quick one, and starting from the pit lane was very, very slippery.”

Alvaro Parente, who qualified ninth for Ocean Racing, said the track temperature was the coldest of the season. “My balance was good,” he added. “So we now need to find a bit more speed and grip while keeping the same balance.”

Diego Nunes qualified eighth for iSport. He said: “For the first five or six laps, the track was a bit wet but after that it was perfect, quicker than this morning. I lost my best lap when I was two or three tenths up so I could have been fourth or fifth. But it’s still not bad. Hopefully we’re going to have a good race.”

Thursday Diary
Today has been a day of firsts. It’s the first time I’ve flown alone. It’s the first time I’ve programmed a satellite navigation system (after much frustration). Oh, and it’s the first time I’ve interviewed a Formula One driver.

Each time I visit Germany, I never fail to be amazed by just how beautiful a country it is. Our journey to the Nurburgring is full of long, sweeping autobahns and lush, green trees. The Ring’s shiny new buildings offer a stark contrast to all that foliage. After a very long journey around the circuit trying to collect our passes, we head for the Bridgestone motorhome. Surreally, our journey is soundtracked by ‘What A Feeling’, from the musical Flashdance.

Things get even odder as we visit our next-door neighbours in the Formula One paddock. BBC One’s F1 presenter Jake Humphrey zooms past on a bicycle, man of the moment Jenson Button conducts interview after interview and a variety of futuristic motorhomes loom high over our heads. I’m not sure if I feel like Alice in Wonderland or a child let loose in a sweet shop. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

Then it’s time for a chat with Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi, a GP2 graduate. We’re previewing the Hungarian Grand Prix. Sebastien won the GP2 sprint race there last year. He’s especially excited about going back to Hungary because he’s due to get some new improvements for his car. Sebastien hopes the upgrade will improve his car’s performance. He’s approachable and knowledgeable, and it’s a perfect end to the day.

We leave Wonderland behind for the night just as the heavens open and torrential rain pours from the skies over the BMW team as they practise pit stops. The first day of my first ever motorsport meeting… what a feeling indeed.

For more on the Bridgestone e-reporter competition, click here.