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Paddock Postcard from Spa-Francorchamps 29 Aug 2010

Robert Doornbos (NDL).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 28 August 2010 (L to R): Tyson Gay (USA) World Champion Athlete with Marshevet Myers (USA) Athlete.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 28 August 2010 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Rapax celebrates in parc ferme. GP2 Series, Rd 8, Race 1, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday 28 August 2010. Alvaro Parente (POR) Scuderia Coloni celebrates his second position in parc ferme. GP2 Series, Rd 8, Race 1, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday 28 August 2010. Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) ART Grand Prix. GP3 Series, Rd 7, Race 2, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday 29 August 2010.

The paddock at Spa is always a good place to meet old friends. This year former Arrows, Benetton and Simtek racer Jos Verstappen was there with rising kart star son Max, Le Mans virtuoso Tom Kristensen was working with television, Adrian Fernandez paid another visit, watching over GP2 and GP3 racers Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez, Alex Ribeiro made an appearance, as did Robert Doornbos, while Jonathan and Jolyon Palmer were busy chasing GP2 rides for 2011 and Nigel Mansell was again a steward. On Thursday evening the 1992 world champion was among friends who gathered to celebrate former Lotus, Williams and Benetton team boss Peter Collins’ 60th birthday.

Famous non-motorsport faces included US sprinter Tyson Gay and fellow American athlete Marshevet Myers.

On the frequently wet (sometimes soaking) track, Pastor Maldonado won his sixth GP2 race of the season on Saturday and this was the toughest as the Rapax driver finished only 0.2s ahead of longtime leader Alvaro Parente and returnee Romain Grosjean who took the injured Ho-Pin Tung’s place at DAMS.

Polesitter Jerome d'Ambrosio fell from contention when he pit-stopped late in the race, leaving Maldonado to clinch on under pressure from Parente, who also stopped later than the others in difficult conditions.

Briton Sam Bird was out of luck after a delayed Dani Clos ran over his rear wheel on the run down from La Source, and fellow countryman Oliver Turvey started his iSport car from the second row but could only finish sixth.

After the restart because of the Bird/Clos incident it was clear that there were three potential strategies: come in early and hope for the best in the conditions, hold position at the front and do a normal stop, or stay out late and hope for rain. Grosjean, Luca Filippi, Sergio Perez and Charles Pic went for the first one, battling each other for points finishes until the Mexican was given a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane which all but ended his slim title hopes. D'Ambrosio and Maldonado came in together on lap eight; the Belgian was slightly delayed and lost out as the Venezuelan just sliced back into the pit road in front of him.

After losing time behind backmarkers, d’Ambrosio chased back and caught and passed Maldonado on lap 18, and with seven to go expected to regain the lead when Parente finally stopped. But then the DAMS car broke, leaving Maldonado to hold off Parente as Grosjean headed Arden’s Pic, Super Nova’s Filippi, Turvey, Barwa Addax’s Perez and Sunday polesitter Rodolfo Gonzalez of Arden.

Saturday's GP3 race was run in the worst conditions, and saw Status’s Rob Wickens score a canny victory despite being one of the three slick-shod runners to aquaplane off in the torrential rain. He whacked the pit wall, damaging his car’s nose, but after a stop for wets under the safety car there were 30s remaining on the clock as the safety car went into the pits. Wickens was first in line behind it and headed to the line at a sufficiently slow pace to ensure there was no time left on the clock as he crossed it and took the chequered flag. With series leader Esteban Gutierez pitting early for wets, and taking fifth overall, Wickens moved eight points closer (albeit still 22 adrift) to keep his championship hopes alive as there are still 27 points up for grabs heading into Sunday's race.

Between Wickens and Gutierrez, Leonardo Cordeiro, Pal Varhaug and Robert Mehri finished second to fourth, with Adrian Quaife-Hobbs sixth. He’d been running second to Wickens before the torrent.

In Formula BMW Saturday saw Spain’s Javier Tarancon score his first major win for DAMS in an exciting encounter in the rain in which he finished ahead of title contenders Robin Frijns and Briton Jack Harvey. Frijns’ fellow Dutchman and Josef Kaufmann team mate Hannes van Asseldonk was fourth and top rookie.