ART’s Stoffel Vandoorne has held off 2014 GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer to win the feature race in Abu Dhabi. Mitch Evans was third for RT Russian Time.
Starting from pole position on an alternative tyre strategy – opting to start on super softs rather than the mediums – Vandoorne made a fantastic getaway off the start line and stretched the gap to the rest of the field to over two seconds.
Felipe Nasr also started on the super soft tyre and jumped Palmer and Stéphane Richelmi to second position at the start of the race.
After the safety car was brought out at the end of the first lap, Vandoorne lost his lead and was forced to work at it again once racing resumed two laps later. Despite his best attempts to keep up with Vandoorne, Nasr found himself 4.1 seconds behind the Belgian due to his tyres starting to drop off.
Palmer then retook his second position back from Nasr, which didn’t have much of an affect as both Vandoorne and Nasr pitted on lap 6 for a set of medium compound tyres.
This left Palmer and Evans to battle at the front while Vandoorne and Nasr were faced with coming through the field on fresher tyres. Vandoorne’s aggressive driving almost got him into trouble while completing a pass on Hilmer’s Jon Lancaster.
Vandoorne had passed Lancaster on the last corner when the Briton got a much better run out of the corner. Vandoorne moved to cover Lancaster which caused the pair to touch and Lancaster to lose part of his front wing. Luckily for Vandoorne the Stewards didn’t find him guilty of any wrong-doing.
Stefano Coletti was the first of the top six to make their compulsory pit stop and change from the medium tyres to the super softs. He was then followed by Johnny Cecotto Jr. with 10 laps to go, sparking retaliation from the rest of the front-runners. Cecotto was able to come out of the pits ahead of Nasr, however his tyres didn’t last the 10 laps he needed them to and Nasr was able to retake the position with three laps left to run.
Palmer and Evans pitted together with nine laps left in the race. A very close call in pit lane caused the Stewards to investigate an unsafe release by Palmer after he jumped out in front of Evans, although no penalty was awarded.
The pair came out eight seconds behind Vandoorne but on the faster compound tyre. Palmer started his charge by setting the fastest lap of the race and taking 1.5 seconds out of Vandoorne’s lead.
However the grip in his tyres didn’t allow him to be as aggressive as he would have liked, and he was unable to catch Vandoorne.
Images via GP2 Media