Alexander Rossi powered to his maiden GP2 victory Saturday at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, becoming the first American to score a win in the F1 feeder series.
Rossi, who is trying to become the first American to compete in F1 since Scott Speed in 2007, converted his first career pole into spectacular race form, besting Britain’s Jolyon Palmer and Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson in the 29-lap feature.
“It’s amazing,” Rossi said of his first GP2 win. “It was very emotional on the podium, but we did such a good job this weekend to get this. I am very, very relieved that we got it done, and as I said yesterday we can go to the off-season now knowing that we can do it.”
Rossi struggled off the line, allowing Palmer to steal away the lead in Turn 1. Palmer immediately set a blistering pace, stretching his lead over Rossi to as much as three seconds.
The turning point came when Rossi ducked off to pit road on Lap 18, where his Caterham squad elected to stay on the medium compound and take rear tires only. Rossi then set a torrid pace on his outlap, forcing Palmer to pit two laps later.
Palmer’s team decided to switch onto the supersoft compound — which is generally faster on a short stint. Unfortunately for Palmer and his Carlin squad, pitting two laps later than Rossi proved to be devastating, as the American assumed the lead.
A brief safety car period brought the two nose-to-tail with seven laps to go, but Palmer was ultimately no match for Rossi in the closing laps, as Rossi would go on to win by a margin of 2.130 seconds.
“The safety car didn’t help us, to be honest, because it gave him [Palmer] a chance to cool off his tires which we needed,” said Rossi. “I thought it was going to be a bit of a fight, but we made a good restart and then held him off.”
Behind them was a mega battle between Fabio Leimer and Ericsson — with the pair battling lap after lap for the final podium spot. Ericsson won the battle and took third, but Leimer won the war as he was crowned GP2 Series champion.