Nico Hulkenberg enjoyed an untroubled run to victory as the GP2 Series completed its first race on German soil in 2009, putting the ART Grand Prix driver firmly into contention for the series title.
Starting from pole position, the F3 Euroseries champion made the perfect getaway to head the pack into turn one and, with Lucas di Grassi and Roldan Rodriguez occupying themselves in pursuit, was able to steadily open out an advantage that would hardly be eroded through the course of the 35 laps. Indeed, such was his lead that he was able to pit for the mandatory tyre change without losing the advantage and continued to cruise to victory after rejoining with hardly anyone in sight.
While Hulkenberg eased to his first 'summer series' victory, the battle for second petered out during the required stops, as di Grassi and the Racing Engineering team made a hash of theirs, allowing Rodriguez to resume unopposed once the remainder of the chasing pack had changed rubber. With third-placed Andi Zuber some eight seconds adrift of the Spaniard, the race at the front turned processional, leaving the action to occur in its wake.
Vitaly Petrov was equally comfortable in fourth, although the presence of Super Nova's Javier Villa - enjoying better fortune than at Silverstone - just a couple of seconds behind the Russian at least kept the title challenger on his toes.
It was the scrap in their wake that really grabbed the attention, however, with points leader Romain Grosjean having vaulted up the order courtesy of an early stop as he attempted to make up for starting on row seven. Even before his tyres began to wear out, the Frenchman - still being tipped as a potential replacement for Nelson Piquet Jr in F1 - was coming under concerted pressure from Alvaro Parente, with the chastened di Grassi keeping a watching brief.
Parente should have been ahead of the Barwa Addax car, but had spun on cold tyres one corner after completing his pit-stop. The error undid some good work from the Ocean Race Technology team which had pushed the Portuguese ahead of Pastor Maldonado, and Parente looked determined to atone as he harried Grosjean through to the closing laps. The battle, however, was denied a denouement
as, with two tours to go, Grosjean slowed suddenly, pulling up the wrong side of the team's pit position with a shrug of bemusement.
Parente duly inherited sixth, with di Grassi moving up one spot - losing sprint race pole in the process - to allow Sergio Perez to claim the final point. Reigning Asia Series champion Kamui Kobayashi still has luck evading him, missing out on possible pole even though ninth place was an improvement on recent results. DAMS team-mate Jerome d'Ambrosio, who has gone off the boil in recent rounds, completed the top ten.
Hulkenberg's victory, combined with Grosjean's late demise, allows the German to close to within a point of the series lead, with Petrov also clawing back the gap to his team-mate to two points as the leading trio open out a cushion over their pursuers, led by Maldonado and di Grassi on 26 apiece.
The Venezuelan should have added to his tally, but another rash move, this time on Diego Nunes, ended both drivers' participation, while Luca Filippi departed on lap one, along with the hapless Luiz Razia, after spinning at turn three. Ricardo Teixiera, returnee Franck Perera and Edoardo Mortara - who joined Dani Clos in stalling at the start - completed the retirements.