Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly has been crowned the 2016 GP2 Series champion at the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi despite only finishing ninth at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Gasly moved back into the lead of the drivers’ championship by taking pole and the feature race victory on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, leapfrogging Prema Racing teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.
Gasly entered the final race of the year holding a 12-point advantage over Giovinazzi, but started only eighth on the grid by virtue of the reverse order from Saturday’s results. Giovinazzi lined up fourth on the grid, needing a podium finish to stand any chance of winning the title.
Giovinazzi’s hopes were dashed off the line when he bogged down, dropping to fifth and failing to make up any ground through the opening stages. Gasly also failed to make up any positions, sitting eighth in the early stages.
From there, neither driver was able to mount the kind of charge that is perhaps expectant of would-be champions, but for Gasly, it mattered little. He managed to close up on Giovinazzi as the Italian toiled for position, going wheel-to-wheel with Norman Nato and slipping back to sixth.
A late charge from outgoing GP2 racer Mitch Evans relegated Gasly to ninth by the checkered flag, but with Giovinazzi only finishing sixth, the Red Bull junior had done enough to clinch his maiden GP2 title.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s been such a long season with hard moments. We kept fighting to the end,” Gasly said after the race.
“The car has been fantastic all year, the team did a great job. To get it at the last race is just unbelievable.”
The race itself was won by Alex Lynn in his final GP2 start, with the Briton poised to move into the FIA World Endurance Championship for 2016. Lynn was joined on the podium by GP2 veteran Johnny Cecotto Jr., while Sergey Sirotkin finished third to also secure P3 in the drivers’ standings.
Gasly’s future remains unclear after being passed over for a Formula 1 seat with Toro Rosso for 2017, with reports suggesting that he could be poised to spend next year racing in the Japanese Super Formula series.