The Bridgestone e-reporter GP2 diary - Germany 12 Jul 2009
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, its 24-year-old English writer, Kate Goodacre...
Sunday race report - Nicos King of the Ring
Nico Hulkenberg took the lead of the GP2 drivers championship at Germanys Nurburgring after a stunning victory in todays sprint race.
The ART driver went four points clear of Barwa-Addaxs Romain Grosjean in the drivers standings after dominating this weekends qualifying and Saturdays race. Grosjean finished fifth in todays race.
Weve 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. Its motivating us more and keeps our motivation up to work as hard as we did before - which is what well 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. Well 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!
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. Its so heartwarming to see very young children grinning as they meet their heroes in person. Its also the perfect opportunity to indulge in a spot of documentary photography, my favourite hobby ever since I first held my mums camera, aged just four.
A bit of writing follows, then its off to Bridgestones Formula One motorhome for lunch with Rachel Ingham, whos Press and Marketing Manager at Bridgestone, and Peter. Were 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), its 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 mechanics race weekend), Giedo van der Garde and the post-race press conference swiftly follow, so its a hectic two hours. Even the prospect of a late-night typing session doesnt seem that bad. Who could complain about one late night after a weekend like this?
I really must thank everyone whos taken the time to talk to me - especially when theyve been busy, or it hasnt 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). Its not because Im forgetful, honest. I blame it on the buzz motorsport gives you. Its positively infectious.
Saturday race report - Home triumph for Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg stormed to a convincing maiden GP2 victory at the Nurburgring in Saturdays 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: Its better to think race-by-race. I wont put myself or the team under more pressure, we will just keep doing the same as were doing now.
A close early battle between Lucas De Grassi and Roldan Rodriguez finished in Rodriguezs 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 weve got points so tomorrow well try to take more.
Petrovs 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.
Today starts in the F1 paddock, and although its free practice theres lots going on. Jarno Trulli, Bridgestones 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. Its 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, its time for GP2 qualifying. The live timing service on the official GP2 website proves extremely useful during a fast-moving qualifying session.
Peters 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 Villas my first post-qualifying voxpop, and my hearts pounding so much from the adrenalin rush I feel like Ive done an hours cardio workout at the gym. Its still a little daunting, truth be told, but hopefully in the aftermath of tomorrows race Ill 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. Hes 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. Ill 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 Saturdays 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 Im not making such a big deal about it being a home race, he said. Its 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 Ill 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 its still not bad. Hopefully were going to have a good race.
Today has been a day of firsts. Its the first time Ive flown alone. Its the first time Ive programmed a satellite navigation system (after much frustration). Oh, and its the first time Ive 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 Rings 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 Ones 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. Im not sure if I feel like Alice in Wonderland or a child let loose in a sweet shop. Perhaps its a bit of both.
Then its time for a chat with Toro Rossos Sebastien Buemi, a GP2 graduate. Were previewing the Hungarian Grand Prix. Sebastien won the GP2 sprint race there last year. Hes especially excited about going back to Hungary because hes due to get some new improvements for his car. Sebastien hopes the upgrade will improve his cars performance. Hes approachable and knowledgeable, and its 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.
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