Behind the leaders, a furious battle between Nasr and Fabio Leimer ended with Leimer passing the DAMS car thorough the Curva Grande and then successfully taking the inside line in the run down into Roggia again on lap 13. Nasr, however, didn't see the matter as settled and turned into the corner on his normal race line and inevitably impacted Leimer. Nasr came off emphatically the worst in the encounter, briefly jolted in the air and spun by impact with the narrow edge of the 'sausage' curb. He was able to limp the car back to the pits, but it was clear that the car was going no further and Nasr became the third retirement of the afternoon.
The Nasr incident - coming so soon after his clash with Razia - would leave Leimer involved in two post-race investigations for collisions at just the same spot, but in the meantime the Swiss driver was firmly focussed on putting in fastest laps and closing up on the back of Valsecchi. Leimer finally pressured Valsecchi into overshooting the Roggia chicane at turn 4 on lap 19: although he returned to the track ahead of Leimer, Valsecchi knew it was necessary to relinquish the spot if he was to avoid a drive-thru penalty for cutting the track.
Not that this was the end of Valsecchi's headaches, since behind him he had Lotus' Esteban Gutiérrez, iSport's Jolyon Palmer and Rapax's Stefano Coletti all battling hard for position amongst themselves - and potentially for the pole position for the sprint race under the reversed grid rules. All of them were looking more on the pace than the DAMS car ahead. Valsecchi had to work hard to defend his position for the rest of the race in order to make the most of Razia's early exit from the race.
The last cars to stop gradually cycled through the pit lane, meaning that Filippi and Chilton were getting closer and closer to reoccupying the top spots on the timesheets. However, Cecotto's stay-out strategy reaped dividends - he'd pulled out such a lead during that time that he was able to slot back in line on the track in the tight space between Chilton and Ericsson for third place on lap 14. Eventually Cecotto was able to line up the Carlin car down the front straight at the start of lap 21 and blew past him into the first chicane to clinch second position; two laps later and Marcus Ericsson also put the fading Chilton to the sword at the same spot, dumping the polesitter down to fourth place.
Going into the final laps, Filippi had the lead by over five seconds from Cecotto, with Ericsson, Chilton, Leimer and Valsecchi forming the rest of an increasingly stable-looking top six. Behind them, Gutiérrez was losing out badly and had been passed by both Palmer and Coletti, coincidentally leaving the Rapax new boy holding eighth place and the provisional pole for Sunday morning. Confirming that something had gone seriously awry with the Lotus set-up for Monza, Gutiérrez' team mate James Calado had faded steadily to 12th place and never featured all afternoon, a rare day off the pace for the British driver who came into Monza in third place in the drivers' championship battle.
There were no last minute dramas or accidents to scramble things up one more time: Filippi successfully claimed a dominating victory at the end of lap 30, to cap a fairytale comeback after a full year away from not just GP2 but from competitive racing. Cecotto cruised home in second place, redeemed from that messy weekend at Spa that had left him with the five place grid penalty to overcome at the start of today's race; if not for that, then maybe the Barwa Addax driver would have won?
Something about the body language of the Coloni car indicated that that Filippi would never have allowed that to happen: Filippi had come into this weekend with a sense of purpose and even destiny about his return to GP2. And he'd made the dream into a reality.
"It might be a year since I last drove, and it feels like yesterday," said Filippi, an Italian winner worshipped by an Italian crowd at the the home of Italian motorsport. "It's like time just stopped."
Full race results