Davide Valsecchi played a cagey final feature race of the 2012 GP2
Series season to ensure that he crossed the finish line just ahead of title rival Luiz Razia to confirm that he is this year's drivers champion.
In a race dominated by two safety cars - one at the very beginning, and one near the end - Valsecchi and Razia finished off the podium in fourth and fifth positions, with Max Chilton claiming the race win ahead of Esteban Gutiérrez and Fabio Leimer after a dreadful start for polesitter Luca Filippi.
Filippi looked on the verge of stalling as the lights went out at the start of the Saturday afternoon feature race and he was lucky to get away at all as cars streamed around either side of him, the Coloni car finally slotting into seventh place.
That had gifted Carlin's Max Chilton an easy run down to the first corner in front, and he easily parried some early exploratory lunges from the Lotus of Gutiérrez over the first lap to assert his control of the race. Jolyon Palmer got around Fabio Leimer for third place, while Davide Valsecchi was just where he needed to be to clinch the title - fifth place, three spots ahead of Luiz Razia.
Behind them, there were the usual incidents and collisions going on that were only to be expected in a closed-up pack on a tight and twisty street circuit: Johnny Cecotto Jr. banged wheels with Luca Filippi to gain a place on the first lap; James Calado made light contact with the left rear of Razia's car and almost spun the Arden as the two struggled for position over the opening corners; and Caterham's Rodolfo Gonzalez was involved in two incidents in quick succession, the first leaving Ocean's Victor Guerin in the wall at turn 5 and the second of which saw him tap the Rapax of Ricardo Teixeira into a spin. To rub salt into that latter wound, Gonzalez then ended up running over Teixeira's front wing, and he was rewarded for his efforts with a drive-thru penalty by the race stewards.
The final straw was René Binder spinning and stalling his Venezuela GP Lazarus, which was just one incident too many for the stewards to feel comfortable with and so they they activated a brief safety car to give themselves a chance to clear everything up. Racing soon resumed on lap 3, with Chilton getting an excellent restart and not giving Gutiérrez any chance of taking advantage of the situation: the Carlin driver quickly pulled out nearly a second over the Lotus.
The safety car had been too early for the mandatory pit stop window which didn't open until lap 6: there were early takers in the form of Cecotto, Filippi, Calado and Julian Leal, all of them clearly hoping that the early advantage of fresh rubber would allow them to make up some track position. At the conclusion of his stop, Cecotto was released almost right into the side of Filippi in an apparent text book definition of unsafe release, but Cecotto's quick reactions averted actual contact.
The opening of the pit window coincided with Simon Trummer coming to a rather more unexpected halt out on track when he out-braked himself at the entrance to the tunnel under the main grandstand and stuffed the nose of the Arden into the barrier. That immediately raised the prospect of a second safety car, and a new group of drivers that included Valsecchi, Razia, Leimer, Palmer and Sergio Canamasas reacted accordingly and came onto pit road rather than get caught out.
In fact, Trummer's accident was dealt with under local waved yellows after all without recourse to a safety car. Even so, race leaders Chilton and Gutiérrez felt the need to respond to the majority and came in on lap 8, which left iSport's Marcus Ericsson in the lead with Nigel Melker, Fabio Onidi and Jake Rosenzweig as the only four cars yet to make their mandatory stops. Chilton resumed in fifth place ahead of Gutiérrez with Filippi having jumped back up to seventh place right behind them courtesy of his very early stop, while Jolyon Palmer was up into eighth ahead of Cecotto and Leimer.