Charles Pic claimed victory in his first GP2 summer series race, keeping his head and driving a strong, sensible race as his rivals dropped away in Barcelona.
The Frenchman's race was set up at the start when polesitter Jules Bianchi and ART Grand Prix team-mate Sam Bird struggled to get off the line as the lights went out. Bianchi's front row partner Sergio Perez tore away, with Christian Vietoris pushing for a line inside the Mexican at the first turn. Unsurprisingly, the pair came together out of the corner, with the German spinning backwards into Bianchi and putting them both out on the spot.
While Perez escaped the contact, and the pack, by taking to the infield, Bird was forced over the high kerbs to avoid the melee, damaging both his front wing and any hopes he had of appearing on the podium.
As a result, Pic was promoted to P2 behind the rapidly-escaping Perez, with Giacomo Ricci's astonishing start pushing the Italian up from tenth on the grid to third on the road in just a few corners. The DPR driver, who won the final GP2 Asia Series race of 2009-10, ran ahead of Pastor Maldonado, Dani Clos, Oliver Turvey and Giedo van der Garde, although the Dutchman was soon to disappear from the pack after suffering consecutive drive-through penalties, one for leaving the pits too late and another for a jump start.
Up front, Perez was building a strong lead over his rivals when the mandatory pit-stops began to take effect. Maldonado was the first to stop, shortly after being passed by Clos, while Pic came in on lap 12 and returned 40 seconds down the track from the race leader, who looked to have everything under control. However, while Ricci and Clos pitted nose-to-tail, a sticking right rear tyre for Perez stop four laps later pushing the Mexican back to P4 when he finally returned to the circuit.
From there, the result was largely set in stone. Pic drove a strong, intelligent race and held just enough of a lead for the rest of the race to deny a fast charging Ricci, with a clearly delighted Clos claiming a home podium for Racing Engineering ahead of a bitterly disappointed Perez, who pushed the Spaniard hard for the second half of the race without reward.
Oliver Turvey finished fifth in a lonely but fruitful race for the rookie Briton, with Maldonado pushed to the line by team-mate Luiz Razia. Fabio Leimer will start Sunday's sprint race from pole after claiming eighth on the road, but the star of the race was probably Sam Bird, who drove a series of qualifying-style laps after replacing his broken wing on lap one to recover from 20th on the road and claim ninth at the flag. Although he was denied a valuable starting position by just two seconds, the Briton picked up the final point for fastest lap as some reward for his effort.