Dutch team MP Motorsport enjoyed a fantastically successful conclusion to 2013 at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, 3rd November, with Spanish racer Dani Clos securing the squad’s second podium of the year with a superb runner-up spot in the final outing of the GP2 Series season.
Marking the 25-year-old’s first visit to the rostrum since returning to the FIA Formula One World Championship support category in the summer, Clos was in great form all weekend and following on from an excellent top five finish in round 21 on Saturday, 2nd November, he raced to within just 0.7 seconds of the win during Sunday’s encounter.
“We’ve been working hard for this”, said Clos, “I came back [to GP2] in Hungary and since then there were ups and downs, races where we could have done a really good job, and for some reason the result didn’t come. To finish the season like this, after the great opportunity MP Motorsport gave me to race in the last few races, is really good.”
Starting round 22 from the second row of the grid, in fourth position, Clos unfortunately slipped back to sixth on the run to the first left-hander but a clash between Felipe Nasr and Johnny Cecotto opened the way for the MP Motorsport racer to slice back through into third. Challenging GP2 Series Champion Fabio Leimer for second place, Clos sealed the position into Turn Four with a great pass.
Following a brief Safety Car period on lap three, Clos maintained position but Leimer continued to be a constant threat. Then, at mid-distance, the Safety Car was deployed for a second time and when racing resumed again Clos was able to break away from Leimer.
Into the final third of the encounter, the Spaniard began to eat into James Calado’s lead and into the final tour just 1.3 seconds separated the pair. Continuing to close down the Briton, Clos got to within 0.7 seconds by the finish to cap a sensational performance and claim a richly deserved result.
Team-mate Daniël De Jong began Sunday’s race from 19th position but was edged back to 22nd through the first corner chaos. Back up into 21st place prior to the first Safety Car, the Dutchman then broke into the top 20 and after the second cautionary period he was up into 19th position.
Although pushed back to 20th place on lap 16, De Jong was able to move back up the order as several drivers came to grief. Ultimately, he concluded the final race of his first full season in the GP2 Series in 17th position – just 0.6 seconds behind Rene Binder.
For round 21 on Saturday, Clos lined-up in 10th position on the grid after one of the best qualifying runs of the season for the team – lapping within 0.2 seconds of the top five. Following an aborted start, due to a couple of stalled cars, the race got underway with Clos in the middle of a three-car sandwich at Turn One, from which he emerged in eighth place.
Fortunately avoiding being caught-up in a tangle at the exit of the first chicane, Clos profited to come through in fourth place prior to the deployment of the Safety Car. De Jong, meanwhile, put together a strong opening to the race and concluded the lap in 16th place.
Racing resumed on lap four with Clos maintaining his top four position and he closed to within just 0.2 seconds of third placed Leimer. Following their mandatory pit-stops, the pair rejoined in that order and as the race settled down following the tyre changes Clos was once again fourth. On lap 23, however, he was nudged back to fifth by Marcus Ericsson.
De Jong ran a strategy which kept him out on track until very late in the race, running as high as fourth overall with 10 laps to go, but his race ended with a bitterly disappointing retirement on the final tour when Stefano Coletti smashed into the side of the MP Motorsport car.
Reflecting on the weekend and the season as a whole, MP Motorsport team principal Sander Dorsman said: “Dani’s podium is a perfect way for us to end our first year in GP2, all weekend he showed really good pace and after such a good finish in race one, we knew he had a chance at the podium in race two. We really wanted to be back in the top places for the final round, it’s great.
“Daniël had some bad luck, when [Stefano] Coletti hit him in the second race there was nothing he could do about it. This year has been all about gaining experience for Daniël, he has had some good high points and has shown some good pace. For sure, next year he will be even stronger.”
Dorsman added: “Overall I think all the guys in the team can be proud of what they achieved in MP Motorsport’s first season in GP2. There are so many experienced and successful teams so to have been on the podium twice in our first season is great.”
MP Motorsport now heads straight into its winter testing programme with running scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week. De Jong will drive his No.27 car on all three days and will be joined on Tuesday, 5th November, by Formula Renault 3.5 Series racer Will Stevens. On Wednesday, 6th November, and Thursday, 7th November, GP3 driver Tio Ellinas will pilot car No.26.