Giorgio Pantano duly collected the GP2 Series title in the opening race of the weekend at Monza, but again tried to make it hard for himself after an uncharacteristic error while leading.
The Italian could have taken a fourth win at Monza in five years, but erred exiting the pits after his mandatory tyre stop and crossed the white 'blend' line approaching the turn one chicane. That incurred the wrath of the stewards, despite there being no traffic for the Racing Engineering car to interfere with, and Pantano was called for a drive-thru' penalty that dropped him out of the points.
In truth, his chances of taking victory had already began to recede as the #12 car did not appear as quick on slicks in drying conditions as those of the pursuing Lucas di Grassi and Pastor Maldonado, and the Brazilian had already taken the lead when Pantano took his punishment. The Italian rejoined in ninth, slipping to tenth by the flag, but sole title rival Bruno Senna could not make up enough ground from his sixth row grid slot, rising only as high as fifth, leaving him short of points ahead of Sunday's sprint event.
di Grassi went on to fend off a typically spirited Maldonado to take the win, with Sebastien Buemi completing the podium.
For the second week in a row, the feature race began behind the safety car, which 'led' for three laps before retiring to the pits and unleashing the pack towards the Rettifilio. The wisdom of starting at a controlled pace was immediately underlined as Pantano's Racing Engineering team-mate, Javier Villa, slammed into the back of the luckless Andi Zuber, riding over the Piquet Sports car and pushing it into Vitaly Petrov, removing all three from the action.
Remarkably, there was little other incident on the 'opening' lap - although ART's Sakon Yamamoto had already crawled the final lap behind the safety car - despite the desperate Senna and Romain Grosjean swapping places, and Grosjean going on to dispense with the other iSport machine of Karun Chandhok.
At the front, Pantano had held his advantage to lead di Grassi, Buemi and Maldonado - the Venezuelan having already taken advantage of the misfortune for Petrov and Luca Filippi to move into fourth. He was not to be denied another spot either, waiting only until the next lap to sweep around Buemi at the Parabolica in a move reminiscent of those he used to good effect at Les Combes last weekend.
Needing to get close to the podium in the event that more misfortune beset rival Pantano, Senna was making slow progress, and wasn't helped by being momentarily delayed by team-mate Chandhok as the Ascari chicane. The Indian, perhaps realising who was behind him, the made it easy for Senna at the Parabolica, as Ho-Pin Tung and Marko Asmer went off in their wake.
The Brazilian had some way to go before approaching the next battle on the road, where Roldan Rodriguez held Grosjean at bay until lap twelve, when the GP2 Asia champion got through at the Rettifilio. Rodriguez then slowly fell back towards the chasing iSport car, but Senna was already showing signs of not having the pace to achieve his aim....
Mike Conway was among the first to make their mandatory tyre stop, but opted for further wets as the track remained damp - and very damp - in places, despite the main straight and other area exhibiting a broad dry line. Filippi, with little to lose after running 17th in the opening stages, was the first to take a punt on slicks, although lap 14 was probably still a little early to make the most of them. The Arden car crabbed out of the pits as it struggled to find grip, and Filippi's lap times took several laps to even approach those of the leaders.