• GP2 - Russian GP - Race 1

Palmer clinches title with victory

ESPN Staff
October 11, 2014
© Sutton Images

Jolyon Palmer sealed the GP2 title in fine style as he held off Mitch Evans to win the feature race at the Sochi Autodrom.

Palmer benefited from a perfectly-executed strategy and the bad luck of Stoffel Vandoorne, who narrowly missed the pits when the safety car came out on lap eight. From that point on all Palmer had to do was resist the charging Evans - looking to claim a victory for Russian Time at its home race.

The misfortune suffered by title rival Felipe Nasr also aided Palmer's cause, with the Brazilian serving two drive-through penalties after messily exceeding track limits on the opening lap. With it clear from the early stages Nasr would be leaving without any points, all attention turned to Palmer - who knew the 25-point swing from victory would be enough for the championship.

Pole-sitter Vandoorne was beaten off the line by the fast-starting Takuya Izawa, but the McLaren junior out-braked his team-mate into Turn 2 to reclaim the lead. Palmer had soon risen to second after dispatching Izawa and Arthur Pic, but Vandoorne was in a world of his own out in front.

But the defining moment of the race came lower down the order when Stefano Coletti ground to a halt on lap eight, with the awkward location of his car bringing out the safety car. A radio message was broadcast showing ART frantically calling Vandoorne in but, after moving across the track, the Belgian replied "too late!" and pulled away. It was a moment that would cost him victory, with Palmer leading the rest of the pack in for fresh rubber.

At this stage the race started falling apart for Nasr, as he was called in for a drive-through penalty, only to have to serve it again for initially taking it during the safety car period. After the restart Vandoorne set about trying to undo the damage of the safety car incident and turned in successive fastest laps as he opened up a big gap in front. But all attention was now on Palmer, who was now clearly in the lead of the race when pit stops were considered. Team-mate Stephane Richelmi offered little resistance as Palmer moved into the position he needed to be.

Vandoorne eventually pitted from the lead and emerged in seventh, after 23 laps on the soft tyre, and would recover to fifth but his supreme drive was overshadowed by the faultless Palmer out in front. The DAMS driver kept a cool head under pressure from Evans, who kept him honest for the final portion of the race. Palmer's victory makes him the first British GP2 champion since Lewis Hamilton in 2006.

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