It was a race of mixed fortunes for the Carlin drivers in Sepang today, as Felipe Nasr took his first podium of the GP2 season in second place, while Jolyon Palmer fought his way through the field after starting from the pit lane. The British racer put in a courageous fight back after stalling on the grid, but just missed the points in ninth place.
The drama unfolded before the race even got underway for Palmer, who stalled from third on the grid before the green flag lap and had to be pushed into the pit lane as the rest of the field formed on the grid.
As the lights went out, Nasr made another good start from fifth, but a fast starting Julian Leal initially made it ahead as did Stefano Coletti who stole through to take the lead. Nasr held position though and after a close fight with Sam Bird, was lying in third place. The Brazilian managed to survive the concertina effect of James Calado losing control on the grass, which took out Leal and Bird and was focusing on the second placed car of Stephane Richelmi. Nasr made his move quickly and passed Richelmi for P2 at the end of lap one.
A frustrated Palmer meanwhile had already made it up to P18 despite starting from the pit lane and started to take advantage of his new hard tyres with a tough fight through the field. Lap after lap, Palmer passed a string of cars and by lap 14 was 12th after passing Sergio Canamasas.
A slight mistake by Richelmi on lap 17 allowed Nasr some breathing space and fourth place man Mitch Evens up into third, with the gap to Carlin’s Nasr now 2.1 seconds. Palmer hit some resistance on lap 19 as he overtook Tom Dillmann, but the Carlin driver held onto position to steal 10th place with just four laps remaining.
At the front, Nasr was starting his attack on race leader Coletti and had closed the gap to just 0.7 seconds with three laps remaining. With tyre degradation now the key, Nasr had the gap down to 0.6 seconds a lap later.
With only two laps remaining, Palmer passed Kevin Giovesi for P9, just one place out of the points, which was occupied by Rene Binder. Nasr was still pushing hard and with just one lap to go the gap was just 0.4 seconds. Coletti was holding on though, on tyres just two lap older than Nasr’s and managed to cling onto the lead as the drivers took the chequered flag. Nasr took a strong second place, while Palmer missed out on a point by just 0.6 seconds in ninth place.
Reflecting on second place, Nasr said, “It was always going to be a hard race about tyres. My aim was to stay close at the start but look after the tyres so I could attack at the end. That’s what I did but Stefano [Coletti] just had enough to keep the lead. It’s a good result though and with two good races this weekend we take away strong points which is important for the championship. We clearly have a good car and Bahrain is a circuit that I like, so I’m looking forward to the next race.”
Trevor Carlin added, “Again there’s a case of mixed emotions for the team today, we’re delighted with Felipe’s performance to take our first podium of the season, but we know that Jolyon could have been fighting for the win. He must take the award for most overtaking manoeuvres this weekend, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough to take the final point. Both Felipe and Jolyon can go to Bahrain happy with the speed they’ve shown and the team should be proud that the hard work over the winter season is paying off.”