Max Chilton won his first-ever GP2 Series race for Carlin at the Hungaroring on Saturday, defeating title contender Davide Valsecchi by just over half a second after a pulsating race.
Poleman Chilton made a great start to leap into an early lead, having chosen the medium-compound Pirelli tire, to lead super-soft-shod Davide Valsecchi (DAMS) and Luiz Razia (Arden). Behind them, the Lotus cars suffered contrasting starts: James Calado was slow away, but Esteban Gutierrez charged through from seventh to clip third-placed Razia at the first corner.
Razia held third, but Gutierrez soon relented his fourth place to Calado at Turn 1 on lap three, as the Briton made good use of his softer tires. Gutierrez was very slow for the next tour, and as Giedo van der Garde sought to find a way past, he left the door open for Johnny Cecotto Jr. to sneak past him. Doing likewise behind was Felipe Nasr to demote Jolyon Palmer.
Cecotto ran sixth for half a lap before his car locked up all its tyres into Turn 1 and slammed into the tyrewall, looking suspiciously like a jammed throttle rather than a driver error. He was unhurt, and marshals managed to shift his car and restack the tyrewall without requiring a safety car.
The leaders began to pit on lap 12, with Razia, Calado and van der Garde all pitting together from third, fourth and sixth. Razia and Calado switched their softer tires for mediums.
Leaders Chilton and Valsecchi pitted to react a lap later, Chilton saving time by only changing his medium-compound rears, whereas Valsecchi changed all four super-softs for four fresh mediums.
Chilton looked into control until he caught the medium-shod cars that were running a very long first stint. As Gutierrez circulated up front until lap 22, Chilton was getting held up by regular backmarker Julian Leal. That allowed Valsecchi to completely erode his earlier advantage, which had been over 2sec, with Razia making it a three-way fight for the race win.
Razia made an audacious bid to pass Valsecchi around the outside at Turn 1 on lap 25, with Calado and van der Garde catching the Leal-inspired train too. Leal pitted at the end of lap 25, with the top five now covered by just over a second.
Once in clear air, however, Chilton pulled out 1.4sec over Valsecchi in just one lap. But Valsecchi kept him on his toes in the closing stages, poised to pounce if any mistakes were made, getting the gap down to 0.8sec, 0.6sec and then 0.3sec over the last few laps. With one eye on the title, Valsecchi was never going to do anything silly, and settled for second.
He gained five points on Razia as a result, the latter's lead now down to just five. Razia was third, well clear of Calado and van der Garde. Palmer and Nathanael Berthon were sixth and seventh.
The best battle behind the leaders at the end of the race was for eighth, and reversed-grid pole. This became over seventh when Josef Kral's car suddenly slowed with five laps to go, but the man who seemed most likely to get it, Nasr, went off at Turn 1 with just a handful of laps to go.
Erstwhile leader Gutierrez switched to super-softs, but his long first stint hadn't worked for him, and compounded it by locking-up badly as he rejoined. The Mexican then ran wide with seven laps to go, dropping outside the points, but the attrition in front of him handed him the prized eighth spot, and with it tomorrow's reversed-grid pole.
Results - 37 laps:
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Max Chilton Carlin 59m02.965s
2. Davide Valsecchi DAMS + 0.628s
3. Luiz Razia Arden + 1.538s
4. James Calado Lotus + 4.090s
5. Giedo van der Garde Caterham + 8.070s
6. Jolyon Palmer iSport + 10.805s
7. Nathanael Berthon Racing Engineering + 16.236s
8. Esteban Gutierrez Lotus + 16.826s
9. Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering + 17.794s
10. Stefano Coletti Coloni + 19.176s
11. Fabio Onidi Coloni + 28.116s
12. Rio Haryanto Carlin + 34.742s
13. Simon Trummer Arden + 35.069s
14. Nigel Melker Ocean + 35.458s
15. Daniel de Jong Rapax + 37.861s
16. Julian Leal Trident + 44.080s
17. Stephane Richelmi Trident + 44.267s
18. Ricardo Teixeira Rapax + 59.576s
19. Marcus Ericsson iSport + 1m04.364s
20. Giancarlo Serenelli Lazarus + 1m44.003s
21. Victor Guerin Ocean + 1 lap
22. Sergio Canamasas Lazarus + 1 lap
23. Rodolfo Gonzalez Caterham + 1 lap
Johnny Cecotto Jr Addax 34 laps
Josef Kral Addax 33 laps
Felipe Nasr DAMS 4 laps