Piquet Takes Maiden Win at Spa

Nelson Piquet Jr has taken his first GP2 victory in mixed weather conditions at Spa, winning race one of the Belgian event

Piquet Takes Maiden Win at Spa

Piquet drove fast and smooth on dry tyres as the opposition messed up their pitstop strategies while waiting for a heavy downpour that never came.

The Brazilian was joined on the podium by Ernesto Viso and Nico Rosberg, who has taken the lead in the Championship standings after rival Heikki Kovalainen spun out of the race on the last lap trying to pass Mathias Lauda for eighth place and tomorrow's pole position.

The race started under ominous looking clouds but on a dry track, with front row starter Alex Premat beating polesitter Gianmaria Bruni in the straight drag to the La Source hairpin.

Behind them Nicolas Lapierre and Neel Jani stalled as everyone else powered past them, allowing Kovalainen, Piquet and Scott Speed to fall in behind the lead pair. The stalled cars brought out the safety car, and the field lined up behind Premat awaiting their release.

One lap later they were away, with Adam Carroll and Speed running side by side down the hill to Eau Rouge. Bruni was slightly slow away, and Kovalainen had nowhere to go and tapped the Italian from behind, with the pair holding station.

Piquet, however, was on a charge - he was all over the rear of Kovalainen and looking for a way past, and the Finn was giving everything he had just to hold the Brazilian behind him.

Premat was pulling away from Bruni at the front, and the Italian was pushing hard just to hold on. Behind them Hiroki Yoshimoto slid off track and into the wall, prompting the second track visit by the safety car.

Premat, Piquet, Speed, Rosberg, Viso and Xandi Negrao took the opportunity to make their pitstops, while Bruni, Kovalainen, Carroll and Jose Maria Lopez stayed out at the head of the field, waiting for rain before making their stops.

Bruni pushed hard at the restart to build a gap over Kovalainen, and the effort was too much - the Italian had a big spin at the top of Eau Rouge, tearing both ends off his car when he found the wall and bringing the safety car back onto the track once more.

Carroll had muscled his way past Kovalainen up the hill, and led the field for the first time in the race, with Premat leading the pitted drivers in eighth position, ahead of Piquet. The rain started to fall at the back of the track, prompting Speed to pit for wets, but the front runners decided to stay out yet again.

The race was restarted on lap twelve, with Carroll leading Kovalainen and Lopez cleanly through La Source, while behind them Premat and Piquet ran like a train through Olivier Pla at the top of the hill.

Pla's teammate Giorgio Mondini didn't manage to find his way through the corner behind them, however - he had a big spin and tore both ends off his car at the top of Eau Rouge, and with debris across the track there was no option but for another safety car visit.

This was the front runners' big chance to make their stops, but with the rain stopping and starting no one was prepared to gamble.

The race restarted yet again on lap 16, and it was clear to see how wet the conditions now were - Carroll ran very wide at La Source and lost the lead to Kovalainen, while Premat went even wider and Piquet was through and into fourth position, with Premat stopping at the bottom of the hill and throwing his wheel away in disgust.

The front three were now Kovalainen, Lopez and Carroll, and they were the only three drivers not to pit. With just six laps to go it was clear that an error in judgment had been made at the front - the three were yet to make their stops, and Piquet was reeling them in lap by lap.

Behind Piquet, Rosberg and Viso were having a strong battle after storming drives through the field. Both men started on the sixth row, and with podium positions beckoning they were fighting each other as though for a win.

Piquet had the option to sit and wait for the leading three drivers to pit, but he chose to push through the spray and was through Carroll and onto the podium at Les Combes.

On lap 22 the inevitable happened: Kovalainen, Lopez and Carroll were into the pits, and Piquet was the new leader. Behind him Viso had finally found a way past Rosberg and was chasing the Brazilian, with the German clearly thinking of the Championship and sitting back to preserve his car.

But Piquet was untouchable in the changing conditions - he crossed the line to win race one by three seconds from Viso, with Rosberg leading Juan Cruz Alvarez and Borja Garcia across the line.

Negrao was in seventh position and leading a queue of drivers - Lauda looked set for tomorrow's pole position but Kovalainen had other ideas, trying and failing to get by the Austrian and being rewarded with a spin for his efforts.

Carroll, however, was able to pick up the scraps, powering past Lauda to take the final point of the race and putting himself at the front of the grid for tomorrow.

CLASSIFIED:

Pos  Driver      Team                      Time
 1.  Piquet Jr.  Hitech Piquet Sports      1h 8:13.224
 2.  Viso        BCN Competicion           +     3.049
 3.  Rosberg     ART Grand Prix            +     9.930
 4.  Speed       iSport International      +    15.915
 5.  Alvarez     Campos Racing             +    18.000
 6.  Garcia      Racing Engineering        +    18.976
 7.  Negrao      Hitech Piquet Sports      +    35.065
 8.  Carroll     Super Nova International  +    42.263
 9.  Lauda       Coloni Motorsport         +    43.337
10.  Lopez       DAMS                      +    44.128
11.  Pla         DPR                       +    58.011
12.  Piccione    Durango                   +    58.602
13.  Fauzy       DAMS                      +  1:18.279
14.  Vilander    Coloni Motorsport         +  1:58.501
15.  Kovalainen  Arden International       +  1 Lap
16.  Jani        Racing Engineering        +  3 Laps

NOT CLASSIFIED/RETIREMENTS:

     Driver      Team                       On lap
     Hernandez   Campos Racing                22
     Pantano     Super Nova International     22
     Premat      ART Grand Prix               16
     Mondini     DPR                          13
     Bruni       Durango                       8
     Yoshimoto   BCN Competicion               3
     Artam       iSport International          3
     Lapierre    Arden International           0

Fastest lap:

Premat, 2:07.563 on lap 3 (Not classified. No points)
Carroll, 2:09.406 on lap 5 (2 points awarded)

2005 Championship Standings, Round 11 (Race 20):

Drivers:                Teams:
 1.  Rosberg     101    1.  ART Grand Prix            154
 2.  Kovalainen   99    2.  Arden International       117
 3.  Speed        64    3.  Super Nova International   92
 4.  Premat       53    4.  iSport International       66
 5.  Carroll      49    5.  Racing Engineering         63
 6.  Jani         48    6.  Hitech Piquet Sports       50
 7.  Piquet Jr.   46    7.  Coloni Motorsport          36
 8.  Pantano      43    8.  DAMS                       28
 9.  Bruni        35    9.  BCN Competicion            24
10.  Lopez        28   10.  DPR                        22
11.  Pla          20   11.  Durango                    21
12.  Lapierre     18   12.  Campos Racing               7
13.  Garcia       15
14.  Piccione     14
15.  Viso         13
16.  Yoshimoto    11
17.  Monfardini    5
18.  Alvarez       4
 =   Negrao        4
20.  Hernandez     3
 =   Lauda         3
22.  Artam         2
 =   Sharp         2
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