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James Calado wins on first GP2 Series weekend

GP3 graduate makes strong first impression after winning 2011 GP2 Final Sprint Race.

James Calado proved Lotus ART was right to sign him for the 2012 season: on his GP2 Series debut at Yas Marina Circuit, the Brit scored his first win at the 2011 GP2 Final sprint race in Abu Dhabi. Calado kept the lead at the start from reverse pole and never surrendered despite huge pressure first from GP3 graduate Antonio Felix Da Costa and then from the experienced Marcus Ericsson. The Swede had to settle for second place ahead of teammate and GP3 graduate Tom Dillmann. Calado and Dillmann will both receive prize money from Pirelli for finishing as the two highest-placed GP3 graduates.

When the light went out, Calado kept his nearest rivals at bay and was still in the lead after the first corner. Ericsson was already up to third from P5 and all over Felix Da Costa, but the young Portuguese driver defended his position well. The Swede had to wait until Lap 8 before he could get past. The Ocean driver was then under the threat of a charging Luiz Razia whilst Ericsson set his sights on Calado.

The battle between Razia and Felix Da Costa intensified on the following lap, and the Brazilian eventually overtook the Portuguese. Felix Da Costa fought back but cut the corner and in doing so received a drive thru penalty which he observed immediately dropping him down to the middle of the field. Razia looked set for another podium finish this weekend but he was also handed a drive thru for ignoring yellow flags. This promoted Dillmann to third.

Behind the top three, Jolyon Palmer cruised to fourth place. But the battle for the remaining points-paying positions was a GP2 classic between Alexander Rossi, Stefano Coletti, Fabio Leimer, Kevin Ceccon and Esteban Gutierrez. The final laps saw a fierce fight with Coletti under constant attack from Leimer. Yesterday’s race winner was all over the Scuderia Coloni man and the battle ended in tears in the last lap after a contact between the two cars sent Coletti into the barriers. The fight continued with Rossi and Ceccon, but it was eventually Gutierrez who took fifth place – an impressive comeback from P21 on the grid. Ceccon took sixth.

At the chequered flag, Calado punched the air in celebration of his first GP2 success ahead of the iSport duo, Ericsson and Dillmann respectively. Although both drivers ended with seven points, it is Calado who is crowned best GP3 graduate thanks to his win and will receive 15,000 Euros from Pirelli while Dillmann will receive 10,000 Euros.

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