After the thrills of Saturday's feature race, Spain's Sunday sprint proved a more subdued affair - but that didn't mean it didn't have a thrilling start and an eventful end to the 26-lap morning outing at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.
A second flying start to match the terrific one he made at the start of yesterday's race catapulted Stefano Coletti from fifth place on the grid into a wheel-to-wheel battle with polesitter Johnny Cecotto Jr. for the lead into the first turn. Coletti almost overplayed his hand when he tried pinching the Arden into the corner and the cars lightly touched, but he avoided being spun out, recovered his momentum, and held on until the track turned once more in his favour to allow him to complete the move.
Behind them, a stall in fourth place on the starting grid for Russian Time's Tom Dillmann meant those drivers around and behind had to scatter to avoid hitting the Frenchman who was a sitting duck until the track officials could get to him. The mayhem did present an opportunity for some of the more savvy drivers, with Saturday race winner Robin Frijns going onto the grass verge to get around the obstacle. Felipe Nasr sticking to a safe line down the middle of the track as others swerved all around him, but over the first few corners of the race managed to impressively negotiate his way up to fourth behind Frijns.
Shortly after Frijns and Nasr found their way around Cecotto to take second and third places respectively, but in the meantime Coletti had been able to build up an impressive cushion at the front and was now several seconds down the road. Further back, a poor start for Trident's Kevin Ceccon had dropped him to seventh place after a front row start but by lap 3 he had steadied the ship and managed to find his way back past the Caterham of Alexander Rossi for sixth place behind Jolyon Palmer in the Carlin.
Not having the luck of his Hilmer team mate Frijns, Jon Lancaster was showing none of the pace he'd had in the feature race and had fallen from sixth place on the grid to ninth place and on lap 6 haemorrhaged another spot to Daniel Abt, freeing up the ART driver to set his sights on Rio Haryanto for the final points position.
Meanwhile that left Lancaster labouring just ahead of Sergio Canamasas (Caterham) and Fabio Leimer (Racing Engineering), both of whom desperately trying to recover from disastrous Saturday outings and attempt to salvage a point or two in the sprint: Marcus Ericsson (DAMS) in 16th, Sam Bird (Russian Time) in 18th and James Calado (ART) in 22nd were in a similar bind. Calado made up a few positions at the back, partly thanks to Jake Rosenzweig tapping Rene Binder into a spin on lap 17 (for which the American received a drive-thru), but in fact the mid section of the race broadly assumed a stubbornly processional attitude with few cars able to make any in-roads at all for as long as the tyres held up: Nathanaël Berton putting the Trident on lap 19 for fresh tyres after locking up and flat-spotting his initial set was the early warning sign of Pirelli rubber end-of-life being imminent.
Sure enough, the racing perked up considerable as the end loomed: Palmer was able to force his way into fourth place, leaving Cecotto with a broken front wing from light contact in the process; and Ceccon and Lancaster both made mistakes and locked up which cost both of them track position. Abt finally had his way with Haryanto on lap 23 but then had his hands full with Sergio Canamasas.
With his damaged front wing, Cecotto was a sitting duck for Rossi to pass, but Cecotto then recovered fifth spot by overshooting the turn 1 run-off - something that really should have seen him hand the position back to the Caterham before he was penalised, but which he instead determinedly defended. But worse was to come from the Venezuelan, when his continued blocking ended up with him deliberately banging wheels with Sergio Canamasas to ward him off. The chasing pack behind them was backed up, and Rio Haryanto ended running into and over the back of Canamasas's car - the second time in 24 hours that the Caterham has ended the race without a rear wing to its name. Haryanto ended up handed a ten-place grid penalty for the Monaco feature race for his part in the accident.
While tyre wear was making its mark down the field, it was haven't little effect on the race leader: Coletti's lead wavered once or twice but he was quickly able to put his foot down again and repair his four second lead. With no pit visits to manage on Sunday - unlike the mandatory stop on Saturday that had proved costly to him in terms of track position - Frijns and Nasr never had a sniff of stealing the victory from Coletti and they had to be content with sharing the podium with the Rapax driver instead, who dedicated the win to his grandfather and to a close friend, both of whom had died in the week leading up to the Barcelona event.
The win puts Coletti firmly in charge of the GP2 points standings on 93pts, 17pts ahead of Nasr who has taken over from Leimer in second place after the Swiss driver's pointless Spanish weekend. Most startling of all is the appearance of Robin Frijns in fourth place in the championship, having come into Barcelona without a point to his name. At that sort of rate of acceleration, the Sauber F1 test and reserve driver might very well be mixing it for the title come the season finale come Abu Dhabi in November - assuming that Hilmer has the good sense to retain his services for the rest of the season, that is.
Full race results
and championship standings