Palmer clinches GP2 title with win


Jolyon Palmer scored the most important victory of his career in the Sochi GP2 feature race, as the fourth win of his season sealed the 2014 title in his favour. DAMS driver Palmer took full advantage of early race dominator Stoffel Vandoorne losing his chance of victory when the poleman failed to pit after the safety car was called out onto the track. This handed Palmer the 25 points he required for the title. Palmer's nearest rival in the points, Carlin's Felipe Nasr, suffered a wretched race and was forced to serve two drive-through penalties (he served his first under the safety car so it was discounted) for exceeding track limits and gaining an advantage at the second corner of the race. From fourth on the grid, Palmer tigered through to run second after a wild opening lap of what became a fascinating race. As Vandoorne bogged down from pole position, and second placed Arthur Pic was also slow away, it was Takuya Izawa who raced into an early lead. But Vandoorne outbraked his ART team-mate around the outside at Turn 2, and retook the lead. Izawa quickly fell back, with Pic and Palmer passing him soon after. Palmer passed Pic halfway around the opening lap, but couldn't hang with the pace of Vandoorne, who streaked away up front. But the race was turned on its head when Stefano Coletti's Racing Engineering car ground to a halt from seventh place on lap eight. The safety car was called out, just as Vandoorne was passing the pit entry. Despite despairing calls to pit from his team, he replied "too late" – although it did seem he could have made the pitlane before the commitment cone. That doomed his strategy, as all the other drivers who started on the soft tyre effectively gained a free pitstop over him. Vandoorne tried to pull out a big enough advantage, but just didn't have the tyre life left to do it. He rejoined in seventh, after a mammoth 24 laps on the supposedly high-degradation tyres, and passed Andre Negrao to earn fifth at the finish, as Tio Ellinas ahead of him also stopped. Vandoorne's eventual stop gifted Palmer the lead, but he still had to work for it as Mitch Evans gave him a tough time for the remainder of the race. Palmer's 1.2-second victory gave him 256 points to Nasr's 190, enough to crown him GP2's first British champion since Lewis Hamilton in 2006. "It's incredible, to look at the list of champions, who are fantastic drivers, and join them, which nobody can take away from me, is an incredible feeling," he said. Raffaele Marciello finished third in his Racing Engineering car, ahead of Campos driver Pic. Behind Vandoorne and Negrao, Sergio Canamasas and Julian Leal were next up and will fill the front row for Sunday's reversed-grid sprint race. Nasr finished 18th, claiming over the radio that the stewards' decision had "destroyed the race".