Birthday boy Giedo van der Garde carried the momentum he had built up over the early part of the Monza weekend into race one, coming from eighth on the grid to claim the opening race of the new season.
Although there was no Superpole session for the first meeting of the season, the reverse grid system was still applied, meaning that polewinner van der Garde had to start from the outside of row four, with Draco's Bertrand Baguette on pole, ahead of Charles Pic, Fabio Carbone and Pasquale di Sabatino. Teenager Pic made the best start, drawing level with Baguette before being put in his place by the Belgian. di Sabatino, meanwhile, used the battling pair to get into the mix.
Back in the field, however, things were hotting up, with Interwetten's Salvador Duran ending his race in the gravel trap after colliding with Prema's Alvaro Barba, the Spaniard also dropping back several places as a result before being forced to retire.
Baguette completed lap one out front, ahead of di Sabatino, while Pic, Marco Bonanomi and van der Garde went into the Parabolica three-abreast. Unsurprisingly, there was contact, with Bonanomi coming off worst in a brush with Pic, as van der Garde, Robert Wickens, Fabio Carbone, Julien Jousse and Pablo Sanchez managed to keep out of the incident.
There was greater drama on lap three, as leader Baguette suddenly slowed to a crawl, his Draco machine falling victim to a troublesome gearshift that allowed di Sabatino to assume control of the race, ahead of van der Garde and a mammoth scrap for third.
"With the pole and the good start, I really hoped for victory," Baguette admitted, "But, during the race, I realised that the gears did not meet the commands and, after I realised that, I could not do anything. Unfortunately, my race was compromised, but I hope to be able to take a revenge tomorrow. "
Wickens managed to get the better of Carbone at the beginning of the start-finish straight on lap seven, but the Brazilian attempted to hit back immediately. However, his efforts to get back past the Canadian resulted in contact with the Carlin car's left rear wheel, sending it into a spin. Not long afterwards, Carbone was involved again, this time with Jousse, although the Frenchman appeared to be to blame as he locked up at the opening chicane and slid sideways into the Ultimate Signature car.
“Starting from row six, it wasn't easy, especially when I came up against Fabio Carbone," Jousse said later, "We had a coming-together when I tried to get past, and I was lucky that my car wasn't damaged in the incident.”
At the front, di Sabatino and van der Garde were now neck-and-neck and, between Carbone incidents, the Dutchman decided it was time to attack. Heading into the opening chicane, he made his move and, although di Sabatino held his own, his approach to the second chicane was compromised and van der Garde was able to sweep around the outside and into the lead.