Paddock Postcard from Valencia 23 Aug 2009
Michael Schumacher may not be racing as many had hoped this weekend, but he is present in Spain and has been hanging out with British rock legend and Ferrari afficianado Eric Clapton. Other famous faces in the European Grand Prix paddock have included former F1 racer Stefan Johansson, 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre and Olympic sailing champion Ben Ainslie, an apt guest for Valencia, which is the former home of the America's Cup. All were among the spectators who witnessed two superb support races on Saturday.
Vitaly Petrov qualified second in the GP2 race but took the lead when polesitter and championship leader Nico Hulkenberg ran wide in the first corner and dropped to third. The Russian then soaked up race-long pressure from the recovering German. Hulkenberg pushed hard enough to set fastest lap and sit right on the Barwa Addax car's tail right to the flag, but the ART Grand Prix machine was still 0.3s adrift when it fell. Nevertheless, Hulkenberg increased his points to lead over Petrov to 17.
Sergio Perez scored his first podium finish in the main series for Telmex Arden International, ahead of Alvaro Parente (Ocean Racing Technology), Roldan Rodriguez (Piquet GP) and Edoardo Mortara (Telmex Arden International).
The Formula BMW race was even closer at times, as Jim Pla finally scored his first victory for DAMS only after a gripping three-way fight with Felipe Nasr of Eurointernational and series leader Michael Christensen of Mucke Motorsport.
They swapped places virtually throughout the race and though Christensen crossed the line in first place he was not eligible to be classified as Mucke Motorsport was racing under appeal against exclusion for technical infringements. Thus the Frenchman took the win after overtaking Nasr on the last lap and beating him home by 1.9s. Dutchman Robin Frijns of Josef Kaufman Racing was ultimately classified third.
And in a frantic GP2 sprint race on Sunday morning, it was Hulkenberg who triumphed, coming from seventh on the grid to beat Perez into second, with Saturday winner Petrov pushing the Mexican all the way in third. Hulkenberg now leads Petrov by 20 points, with three rounds of the season remaining.