Fast and consistent since the beginning of the Malaysian round, Diego Nunes finally converted promise into success as he took an impressive first GP2 victory in the feature at Sepang.
Currently running with Piquet GP, the Brazilian showed why former champion iSport International has picked him to join Giedo van der Garde as 'replacement' for Bruno Senna in 2009's summer series by taking advantage of some good fortune at the start and romping away from the field to win by nearly ten seconds.
When poleman Jérôme d'Ambrosio unfortunately returned to the pits following a driveshaft failure on his reconnaissance lap, Nunes found himself effectively at the head of the field, with Super Nova's James Jakes alongside. At the start, however, both men were slow to get away, allowing Vitaly Petrov up into second place, with ART's Pastor Maldonado in tow. Championship leader Kamui Kobayashi kept his original fourth position, ahead of Ocean's Yelmer Buurman, while Jakes dropped to sixth.
In the midst of the leading group, there was more bad news for Super Nova, as Jakes' team-mate, Javier Villa, stalled, fortunately with no-one collecting him as he sat on the third row.
With the chaos behind him, Nunes assumed a comfortable lead, while Maldonado ran wide, allowing Kobayashi, Buurman and Jakes to pass him. The Briton then showed that his qualifying pace was no fluke by passing Buurman for fourth place. Petrov, meanwhile, was clearly slower than the cars behind him, and tried to resist an impatient Kobayashi for as long as possible, eventually causing the remaining DAMS driver to pit early, on lap seven. Ironically, Petrov then made a small mistake that allowed the closing Jakes back in second place - and, two laps later, Buurman also passed the Russian.
Jakes decided to obverse his mandatory pit-stop on lap twelve, but came out of the pits right behind Kobayashi - almost too close for the points leader's comfort - and continued to hound the Toyota development driver as he seeks to impress those teams with places left for the summer.
Nunes came in one lap later but, such was his pace, he had enough time to get back on track ahead of his closest rivals. iSport's Hamad Al Fardan temporarily inherited the lead, having waited until lap 18 to make his pit-stop, but Nunes was able to resume control when the Bahraini finally stopped, and cruised to his first GP2 victory thereafter.
Kobayashi managed to resist the constant pressure from Jakes to hold on to second place and all but put one hand on the championship trophy as his main rivals faltered in the heat and humidity.
Davide Valsecchi started seventh on the grid, but a sticky rear wheel during his mandatory stop delayed the Italian enough to restrict him to eighth at the flag, although pole for Sunday's sprint will perhaps allow him to redress the growing deficit to Kobayashi. Sergio Perez, meanwhile, failed to trouble the scorers after a difficult qualifying and eventually retired on lap 15. Kobayashi now holds a 17-point advantage over Valsecchi, with Roldan Rodriguez and Perez a further three and five points adrift respectively, with a maximum 27 on offer over the final three races.
Rodriguez did his bit to remain in contention by coming through to fourth place, giving Piquet two cars in the points and a jump to third in the teams' standings. Buurman, meanwhile, scored Ocean Racing Technology's first GP2 points, in fifth place, while Petrov eventually crossed the line in sixth, ahead of the persistent, but erratic, Maldonado, who put huge pressure on the Russian towards the end.