Any F1 drivers slumbering in their Monaco homes trying to sleep off the excesses of the traditional Thursday night gala events in the principality would have received a rude awakening on Friday morning. While F1 was having Friday off, first there was a short sharp shock of GP3 qualifying on the streets, and then a little over 90 minutes later came the full scale assault on the senses of the 42-lap GP2 Series feature race.
Barwa Addax driver Johnny Cecotto Jr. and Carlin's Max Chilton lined up on the front row after coming up top in GP2's first-ever split qualifying session. Behind them, it looked as though Giedo van der Garde's day was about to start in disaster when the Caterham appeared to stall on the formation grid, but the Dutchman was able to get away before the final car has passed him and he was duly allowed to retake his fourth position in time for the race start.
It was a good getaway for Cecotto from pole, but Chilton's gambit of sweeping over to the right to ward off Marcus Ericsson backfired when the iSport car was simply too fast away from third and muscled its way past into the first turn regardless; all Chilton's move did was expose the left flank to a good start from van der Garde. Chilton found himself squeezed between the two second row starters and had to back out in the run down into the chicane and ended up dumped down into fourth place.
Everyone got away without major incidents through the first corner, although there was a shower of now-surplus carbon fibre bodywork parts sent up through minor skirmishes at Ste. Devote. Josef Kral was an early retiree as a consequence, stopping shortly afterwards at turn 4 on the opening lap.
Once the race settled down, behind the leading quartet it was Luiz Razia (Arden) leading Jolyon Palmer (iSport), Davide Valsecchi (DAMS) and Esteban Gutiérrez (Lotus GP) with Fabio Leimer (Racing Engineering) and Tom Dillmann (Rapax) rounding out the points positions.
Valsecchi, Gutiérrez and Leimer were frustrated by the slow traffic of Giancarlo Serenelli, after the Venezuela Lazarus GP car had needed to pit for a new front wing following the first lap messiness and came back out on track at just the wrong moment. His team mate Fabrizio Crestani similarly fell foul of holding up the traffic and got a drive-thru for ignoring blue flags. There were also early drive-thru penalties for jump starts handed to DAMS' Felipa Nasr and Trident's Julian Leal, while Carlin's Rio Haryanto got the same penalty for failing to respect track limits on lap 1 after cutting the turn 1 chicane.
The first men to pit were Leimer and Lotus GP's James Calado on lap 11; Calado had a great stop and managed to jump Leimer for position on the outlap through Rascasse, impressive considering he'd been running well down in 18th place before the stop. The rest of the leaders were playing a longer game of it despite all starting on the super soft tyres, and aiming to push through to something closer to half distance before coming in.
Having opened up a lead of over two seconds in the opening stages, Cecotto was gradually getting wound back in by Ericsson as the race and the tyres wore on. Further back, the best battle for position was between Valsecchi and Gutiérrez, with the Mexican pushing so hard in his efforts that he had more than one scare cutting it close to disaster on the Armco.
Palmer and Dillmann were the next of the top ten to call time on their first set of tyres and pit at the end of lap 20, dropping Dillmann behind a charging Calado who was setting the fastest times of the race so far - although the gamble was that he was eating his up tyres too quickly and would pay for it later on.