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Paddock Postcard from Bahrain 22 Apr 2012

McLaren MP4-4.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 21 April 2012 Feature race Podium and results: 1st Davide Valsecchi (ITA) DAMS, centre. 2nd Luiz Razia (BRA) Arden International, left. 3rd Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Lotus GP, right. GP2 Series, Rd2, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, 19-22 April 2012. Davide Valsecchi (ITA) DAMS leads Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Lotus GP at the start of the feature race. GP2 Series, Rd2, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, 19-22 April 2012. Davide Valsecchi (ITA) DAMS. GP2 Series, Rd2, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, 19-22 April 2012. Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Lotus GP in the pit lane. GP2 Series, Rd2, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, 19-22 April 2012.

Ten-time Grand Prix winner Gerhard Berger made a welcome return to the F1 paddock in Bahrain, together with fellow former F1 racer Jonathan Palmer, while at McLaren Ron Dennis was joined by former employees Jo Ramirez, Tyler Alexander and Neil Trundle. Spectators were treated to a superb display of McLaren F1 cars.

On the track, Saturday’s GP2 feature race saw Italy’s Davide Valsecchi dominate from start to finish for the DAMS team ahead of Arden International’s Luiz Razia and Lotus GP’s Esteban Gutierrez.

Valsecchi made a perfect start from pole position to lead from Gutierrez as Johnny Cecotto Jnr jumped to third and Raia to fifth behind DAMS’ Felipe Nasr. As Valsecchi pulled away into an unassailable lead, Briton James Calado was the first of the top 10 drivers to pit, on the eighth lap. As Razia passed Nasr for fourth, Calado’s team mate Gutierrez was the next to stop, then Razia, but a problem with his right-rear tyre dropped the Mexican behind Calado, Razia and Max Chilton.

When Valsecchi pitted on lap 13 Racing Engineering’s Fabio Leimer led until his own stop, whereupon Valsecchi regained the lead, but as Leimer’s team mate Nathanael Berthon, still yet to pit, battled for second with Chilton, Calado sneaked ahead of both.

Calado’s hopes of a podium finish were then compromised when Nasr and Cecotto collided, bringing out the safety car and wiping out Valsecchi’s 11.4s lead. But as the Italian pulled away again at the restart, the British rookie was starting to struggle with his rear tyres, on which he had been running longer than all of his principal rivals. Gradually he fell back as first Razia, then Chilton and Gutierrez also overtook him. The latter duo’s battle lasted until the final lap, when Gutierrez finally pushed past the Carlin driver to take the final podium place.

Valsecchi then did the double on Sunday as he came steadily through the pack to win the sprint race, taking advantage of a drive-through penalty for Leimer (for ignoring yellow flags) and passing Gutierrez on the final lap for an impressive victory which saw him retain the championship lead. Calado took third, ahead of Razia and Chilton, while Nasr drove an incredible race to finish sixth from a pit-lane start.

If Sunday afternoon’s Formula One main event is even half as exciting, fans are in for a treat!

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