But the biggest loser turned out to be Fabio Leimer, who was informed on lap 20 that he had indeed been awarded a drive-thru penalty for unsafe release into Calado's path. That would immediately take him out of contention for the podium, the second time in 2012 that a penalty had wrecked his race and dumped him all the way down to 13th place and straight into a heated battle with Jolyon Palmer.
Calado might have breathed a big sigh of relief thinking that the pressure was off, but Stefano Coletti picked up the baton and soon the Coloni was cutting into the gap between second and third. Less than one and a half seconds covered the top three on lap 30, who had eked out a margin over over 7s over Valsecchi in fourth place - the DAMS driver seemingly having only a fraction of the raw pace that he'd enjoyed in is domination of Bahrain. His rookie team mate Felipe Nasr was also finding Barcelona an altogether tougher prospect than the last two race weekends at Sakhir, as he laboured around the Circuit de Catalunya at the margins of the top ten, ultimately losing out on the final point to a determined assertive pass from Gutiérrez through turn 1 on lap 34.
Nasr was one of the victims of iSport's Jolyon Palmer, who was on a march in the later stages of the race. He also pulled off a neat move on Johnny Cecotto at turn 12 on lap 29 to take tenth place. Up ahead, Trident's Nigel Melkur had earned a drive-thru penalty of his own for speeding in the pit lane, and when he dropping out of eighth place - which would have given him the sprint race pole position under the reserved grid rules - Palmer was boosted up into ninth and only one position away from claiming the sprint pole for himself.
Unfortunately for Palmer, Arden's Luiz Razia has possession of eighth spot now and had absolutely no intention of surrendering a crucial points-scoring opportunity on Sunday to anyone if he could possibly help it. And given that he's currently in a strong second-place in the GP2 drivers championship, it was clear that Razia had the talent and the experience to enforce his will on the matter: Palmer got no chances.
Up in front, everyone was waiting to see whether van der Garde's two-tyre pit strategy would backfire on his: but it didn't. And while he was never able to pull out much of a margin over Calado in second place, nor did he ever look seriously pressured. Calado in turn was eventually safe from Coletti, whose tyres predictably fell away from him in the closing laps.
Further back down the running order, there was an odd moment of last lap madness to mar what had been an otherwise incident-free race, when Johnny Cecotto locked up going into turn 11 while battling with Tom Dilmann for position, allowing Fabrizio Crestani to sneak past them both in one move. Dillmann sought to press home his slight advantage but got tapped into a spin by Cecotto, and Julian Leal then spinning as he tried to make his way through the middle of the spat. Inevitably, stewards announced that they would be looking into the incident after the race.
The only formal retirement all afternoon was Ricardo Teixeira, who exited from the race on lap 9. He pulled over to the side of the track on turn 5 after just having made a very early mandatory pit stop, having chosen the surprising strategy of starting on the short-life soft option tyres. Lazarus driver Giancarlo Serenelli picked up a drive-thru penalty for ignoring the yellow flags that waved while the marshalls recovered the stricken Rapax.
Full race results and times