Bruno Senna looked set to continue from where he had left off in GP2 qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps when Saturday's feature race began in similarly treacherous conditions, but was ultimately denied the chance to close the gap on rival Giorgio Pantano by what he claims was a controversial pit-lane penalty.
After officials started the race with two laps behind the safety car, Senna immediately pulled clear when the field was unleashed, but opted to take his mandatory pit-stop on lap seven as the rapidly drying track was proving tricky on wet-weather tyres.
Strategically, his timing was perfect, as Andreas Zuber was already showing the benefit of running on dry weather rubber, but the timing of his release was slightly off, the Brazilian leaving his stall just as Alberto Valerio passing, Although the cars managed to avoid contact, it was a close call - as the nervous reactions of the neighbouring DPR mechanics attested.
The stewards decided that the release had been unsafe, as they had with iSport team-mate Karun Chandhok's stop in Valencia two weeks previously, and handed Senna a drive-through penalty. Although the Brazilian denied that there had been much wrong, he was forced to make a slow return to the pits, dropping him to the tail of the now 24-car field.
“The car was really good again today, in both wet and dry conditions, and, without the penalty, I'm confident this would have been another victory," Senna sighed, aware that a golden opportunity had been lost, "I got a bit of wheelspin when the team sent me back out, and that allowed the incoming car to get quite close. I did everything I could to rejoin in a safe manner, by keeping out of the other guy's way, and I really don't feel the team or I did anything wrong. Once a decision has been made, though, you have to accept it and move on."
With most of the race still to run, the Brazilian managed to fight back to twelfth place at the chequered flag, before gaining another place when Zuber was stripped of his podium finish. More importantly, however, Senna appeared to have benefited from title rival Pantano's fraught race, initially when the Italian relegated himself to the rear of the grid by hitting Lucas di Grassi on the final lap, and then further when the stewards excluded the points leader from the remainder of the meeting.
The two points he earned for pole position have already allowed Senna to close the gap to Pantano to eleven points, and he will hope to slice more from the deficit with a fighting drive in race two.
“The car felt fine as I was fighting back through the field but, in the end, I just ran out of time," he said, "We should have been within one point of Pantano after today, but instead the gap is eleven. That makes the final three races more difficult in terms of the championship, but I'm not giving up. It is still there to be won.”