Davide Valsecchi came through from eighth on the grid to add a stunning GP2 sprint race victory in Bahrain to his Saturday feature win. The DAMS driver charged up behind leader Esteban Gutierrez – who had moved to the front when long-time leader Fabio Leimer was penalized – and grabbed first place at the start of the very last lap as Gutierrez struggled for tire grip.
Valsecchi had not looked a likely winner until the closing stages, initially making quietly stealthy progress up the order as Lotus teammates James Calado and Gutierrez fought for victory with Racing Engineering's Leimer.
Calado had jumped from fourth on the grid to lead at the start, ahead of Leimer and Gutierrez. The Sauber protege soon passed Leimer and then attacked teammate Calado, who locked up heavily in defence at Turn 1 on lap three. The pair then made light contact exiting the corner, ripping a chunk of front wing from Gutierrez's car and allowing Leimer to get between them.
Then it was Leimer's turn to hit the front, passing Calado on lap five, with Gutierrez following him through. Leimer subsequently edged away and looked set for victory, only for the stewards to give the Racing Engineering man a drive-through penalty for failing to heed yellow flags, forcing him to relinquish the lead with six laps to go.
By that time, Valsecchi's charge was underway. Already up to third after passing Max Chilton (Carlin) and Calado in quick succession, Valsecchi moved into second following Leimer's penalty, and having conserved his tires, the Italian was able to swiftly demolish Gutierrez's seemingly comfortable advantage, catching up at a second per lap.
Going into the final lap, Gutierrez firmly defended the inside going into Turn 1, but Valsecchi was able to cut across on the exit of the corner and grab the lead as Gutierrez slithered out of the turn, before inching away to take a superb win and increase his championship lead. Calado held on for third, ahead of Valsecchi's title rival Luiz Razia (Arden) and Chilton.
Valsecchi's teammate Felipe Nasr almost eclipsed the winner's heroics, as he surged through from a pitlane start to take an incredible sixth place. iSport's Jolyon Palmer mounted a comparable charge from the back row to seventh amid some epic midfield racing, ahead of Simon Trummer (Arden), Giedo van der Garde (Caterham), and Tom Dillmann, whose Rapax car should have started third but stalled before the formation lap.
Polesitter Fabio Onidi swiftly lost ground after a poor start and could only finish 14th for Coloni, while Leimer's penalty left him 12th.
Results - 22 laps:
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Davide Valsecchi DAMS 39m22.363s
2. Esteban Gutierrez Lotus + 0.399s
3. James Calado Lotus + 10.617s
4. Luiz Razia Arden + 12.463s
5. Max Chilton Carlin + 13.573s
6. Felipe Nasr DAMS + 15.414s
7. Jolyon Palmer iSport + 22.950s
8. Simon Trummer Arden + 30.425s
9. Giedo van der Garde Caterham + 31.976s
10. Tom Dillmann Rapax + 32.545s
11. Dani Clos Addax + 32.632s
12. Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering + 32.856s
13. Ricardo Teixeira Rapax + 36.275s
14. Fabio Onidi Coloni + 36.477s
15. Rio Haryanto Carlin + 39.988s
16. Marcus Ericsson iSport + 40.386s
17. Julian Leal Trident + 47.410s
18. Nigel Melker Ocean + 56.196s
19. Fabrizio Crestani Lazarus + 59.488s
20. Rodolfo Gonzalez Caterham + 1m52.968s
21. Giancarlo Serenelli Lazarus + 1m53.295s
22. Johnny Cecotto Addax + 1 lap
23. Stefano Coletti Coloni + 2 laps
Nathanael Berthon Racing Engineering 15 laps
Brendon Hartley Ocean 2 laps
Stephane Richelmi Trident 0 laps