Abu Dhabi: Like GP3 before it and Formula 1 that followed, the 2016 GP2 series went down to the wire at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday — and there were two winners in the 22-lap sprint.
The race victory went to DAMS driver Alex Lynn, but Pierre Gasly won the ‘other’ race between himself and PREMA Racing teammate, Antonio Giovinazzi, to clinch the drivers’ championship and leave the Italian agonisingly short of glory in his rookie year.
Gasly, the 20-year-old from Rouen in France, took pole for Saturday’s feature race and won that 31-lapper to turn Giovinazzi’s seven-point advantage into a 12-point lead of his own.
Starting from eighth on the reverse grid, Gasly failed to score a point on Sunday but that did not matter: his 22-year-old rival could manage only sixth place, and the three points left him nine short of Gasly’s title-winning total of 219.
In his final GP2 appearance, Lynn claimed a third victory of the season by a comfortable 4.945 seconds from series veteran Johnny Cecotto, the Venezuelan making a return as ‘supersub’ for the Rapax team and pulling off a last-lap pass on ART Grand Prix’s Sergei Sirotkin to relegate the Russian to third.
The first lap produced the major moment of the race when Trident’s Luca Ghiotto tagged the MP Motorsport car of Daniel de Jong, eliminating the Dutchman and earning himself a five-second penalty for his trouble.
From that point, on it was all about Giovinazzi and his desperate bid to claim the podium place that would have kept him in the title picture, but the five-time winner never threatened to add to that total and spent more time fending off RUSSIAN TIME’s Artem Markelov than passing rivals himself.
A lock-up on lap 18 put paid to any slim chances remaining for the young Italian, while Gasly calmly stuck to his 2016 pattern of winning the feature race then taking it very carefully in the sprint and was unfazed when another driver leaving the series, Campos Racing’s Mitch Evans, stole eighth place and the final point late in the race.
Giovinazzi had to settle for second place overall with 211 points to Gasly’s 219, while Sirotkin’s spirited performance over the Yas Marina Circuit weekend saw him leapfrog Raffalle Marciello of RUSSIAN TIME to take third place overall on 159 points — the same total as the Italian, but with a superior countback record.
Fastest race lap of 1:52.646 on lap 14 was a minor consolation for Ghiotto.