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The Bridgestone e-reporter GP2 diary - Italy 13 Sep 2009

Bridgestone e-reporter Nicola Del Medico with GP2 driver Nico Hulkenberg and other journalists, Italian Grand Prix, 13 September 2009 © Bridgestone Bridgestone e-reporter Nicola Del Medico with GP2 driver Vitaly Petrov, Italian Grand Prix, 11 September 2009 © Bridgestone Bridgestone e-reporter Nicola Del Medico with GP2 driver Luis Razia, Italian Grand Prix, 13 September 2009 © Bridgestone Bridgestone e-reporter Nicola Del Medico with GP2 driver Giedo van der Garde, Italian Grand Prix, 11 September 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 Monza, it’s Italy’s Nicola Del Medico…

Sunday diary - goodbye GP2 paddock!
My last day in the GP2 paddock. Here we are! This weekend has been very intense, but I would do it again and again. I have never been lucky enough before to have a magic pass that allows you to go wherever you want. It would be nice to have a pass like this outside the GP2 paddock gates!

Today I saw the coronation of Nico Hulkenberg as champion of the 2009 GP2 main series. It was great! I am really happy for him and I hope he will succeed in reaching Formula One racing. The German driver has worked hard throughout the season and finally conquered the championship title. A good lesson for all young people.

While I’m writing this last diary page I can’t stop thinking of the wonderful people I’ve met here and all the passion that surrounds GP2. All of the Bridgestone staff have been so kind to me. How could I forget the atmosphere in the Bridgestone truck? On the plane home I will still be laughing at the wisecracks I heard, and thinking about what I learnt, but now I would just like to thank everyone in Bridgestone and GP2.

Sunday race report - Hulkenberg becomes GP2’s fifth champion
Although Nico Hulkenberg finished third at the Monza sprint race, he has scored enough points to be crowned champion of the 2009 GP2 season. Luis Razia, who started first on the grid, took his first victory in GP2. Lucas di Grassi was second.

The race was the perfect stage for a battle between this season’s top rivals Vitaly Petrov and Hulkenberg. The Russian started from seventh and, for most of the race, was trying to catch up and overtake the German driver. But he went wide on a corner and finished fifth, behind Jerome D’Ambrosio who was very happy to claim a second fourth position in Monza.

Hulkenberg knew he needed just one more point than Petrov to conquer the title and he succeeded in keeping the Barwa Addax driver at a distance. “I really was under pressure,” said the champion. “This year I am a rookie in GP2 so I had to work hard and I was consistent. And consistency is the key to winning championships. Formula One is definitely the next step.”

Di Grassi has now jumped into third position in the championship and was very close to Razia during the whole race: “It was very difficult to overtake,” said the Racing Engineering driver. “I just hope to win in Portimao. In terms of the championship it’s not so important for me between second and third.”

Among the Italian drivers Davide Rigon finished with the best result in eighth, followed by Davide Valsecchi in ninth.

The GP2 paddock is full of joy. Everyone is happy for the new GP2 champion Nico Hulkenberg, who has been very strong in every race of the season, and surely deserves his victory.

Saturday race report - Van der Garde wins; championship still open
Giedo van der Garde won the chaotic Monza feature race, followed by Vitaly Petrov and Lucas di Grassi. The Dutchman and the Russian were very close throughout, but in the last laps van der Garde, who started from the second spot, got ahead of Petrov.

The race started behind the safety car after a 40 minute delay because of heavy rain. “We didn’t expect such weird weather,” said Luca Filippi, who was out of the race on lap 18. “We just arrived on the track and suddenly it started raining!”

Petrov led the race for 30 laps but then van der Garde, who had pitted one lap before the poleman, claimed first position and kept it until the end of the race. Di Grassi went from 15th to the third position: “The track was full of leaves ,” he said. “It was very slippery but I succeeded in overtaking a lot of drivers.”

Championship leader Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth and is hoping for a better race tomorrow.

The rainy Monza feature race caused some accidents. This may have helped di Grassi and other drivers like Alvaro Parente gain some positions. However, drive-through penalties may also have had a part to play. “Sometimes drivers deserve penalties and sometimes not,” stated di Grassi, who picked up a penalty and was referring to the fact that perhaps he thought Petrov should have been penalized. “I cut the chicane only twice” answered back the Russian.

Tomorrow’s sprint race will probably be even more exciting than the feature race. The 21 laps at Monza could be a turning-point for the whole championship.

Saturday diary - the best learning is doing
A lot of things are not taught at school. No book can explain how to catch a good news story. And no journalism course can teach you how to run after someone you want to interview and ask him the right question at the right moment. You just have to learn these things by doing.

Today is my third day here in the GP2 paddock and I had a very busy schedule. The hardest part of the day was following the weird and rainy feature race. After the podium ceremony, in which van der Garde received his first place prize, I was trying to catch the drivers for my interviews but it was as if they had disappeared. Thanks to my Bridgestone mentors I finally succeeded in chatting with some of them and I finished my race report. While I was in the paddock in search of the race protagonists, I realized how important the Bridgestone e-reporter contest is going to be for me.

At the Formula One paddock, where I had lunch, I met two Italian journalists: Alberto Antonini from Autosprint and Andrea Cremonesi from La Gazzetta dello Sport. They told me how they entered the glamorous world of Formula One racing and they also shared some interesting stories. From what they said I have learnt a very important thing: if you want to make your dreams come true you have to face reality and simply work hard.

Qualifying report - Petrov conquers pole; Hulkenberg third
Despite an arm infection, Vitaly Petrov achieved the best time in the Monza GP2 qualifying session. The Russian driver got a lap time of 1:30.007 followed by Giedo van der Garde and Nico Hulkenberg, who were 0.391 and 0.429 seconds behind the pole sitter.
From the beginning of the session, Petrov dominated the other drivers and when he stopped at the eighth lap it was not because of pain from his arm. “The Italian doctors have done a very good job,” he said. “I will try to have a good start tomorrow, but the first corner is always dangerous here.”

Hulkenberg tried to beat Petrov’s time but didn’t manage it. “Today I was slow and the car didn’t work well,” the championship leader said. “Tomorrow is going to be a long and hard race.”

Van der Garde was very proud of his second spot: “It’s getting better and better all the time. Here in Monza we had the same pace as in the Spa qualifying session. I feel very confident for this race.”

The Dutch driver knows that both Hulkenberg and Petrov are doing their best to become the 2009 GP2 Series champion. “This round will be a battle between them, but I will try to get on the podium and score as many points as possible” he added.

No doubt the two candidates for the championship title will make this race an exciting one: a victory here in Monza would be crucial for both of them.

Friday diary - I can’t wait for the weekend to begin!
This weekend is going to be a big one. Giancarlo Fisichella will drive a Ferrari at the Italian Grand Prix, the GP2 drivers will do their best on the penultimate race of the 2009 main series and I will write race reports in the GP2 paddock. What is happening to me in these days is like a dream come true. I have already met a lot of interesting people like Fabrizio Corgnati, the only Italian former e-reporter finalist, who shared his experiences with me in motorsport journalism.

Here in the paddock I have seen the race cars right in front of me: it has been amazing! After the free practice session I had lunch in GP2 hospitality with all the teams’ staff and some of the drivers. The qualifying session was untroubled but, while watching the live timing on my laptop, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact I would be interviewing some of the top drivers. Talking to Vitaly Petrov, Nico Hulkenberg and Giedo van der Garde has been good training for the work I will be doing in the next few days.

Even if I have spent just two days in Monza I have learnt a lot and this is surely due to the fact that I have great support from the Bridgestone team. For the first time in my life I have spoken to drivers, had dinner with international journalists and seen Monza’s racing cathedral. This may be the first time I have experienced this wonderful world of journalism, but I feel it is not going to be the last.

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