Stephane Richelmi held the lead for a couple of laps before becoming the last man to come onto pit road - another to announce himself with a massive lock-up - on lap 23. Sam Bird threw everything he had into hunting down Leimer for the lead, both men knowing that they stood to gain huge ground in the GP2 Series championship fight thanks to the high attrition rate claiming the other leading contenders - now also including Stefano Coletti himself whose Rapax crawled onto pit road to die quietly on lap 24.
Dillmann did his bit to stay in touch with his team mate, pulling away from Richelmi who had slotted back into fourth place after pitting from his extra-long first stint ahead of Leal, Calado and Quaife-Hobbs, with Alexander Rossi determined to protect eighth place - and provisional sprint race pole position under reverse grid rules - from his unhappy team mate Canamasas. The final points position went to Vittorio Ghirelli, doing a very impressive job for Venezuela GP Lazarus to see him finish in tenth ahead of Daniel de Jong (MP Motorsport), Johnny Cecotto and Jon Lancaster (Hilmer Motorsport). Sergio Campana made a solid debut in the series with Trident in 15th place just behind Barwa Addax's Rio Haryanto.
In the closing minutes the focus was all directed toward the shoot-out at the front. Bird managed to cut the gap to Leimer to half a second and clinch the bonus points for fastest lap of the race, but after that the options appeared to lose their shine and the Russian Time pit wall counselled their man to take "no unnecessary risks." Bird reluctantly complied and duly followed Fabio Leimer across the finish line as the chequered flag signalled the third feature race win of the year for the Racing Engineering driver, which puts him into the championship lead with 153 points, eight clear of Bird who moves ahead of the stalled Coletti in the standings. Having both drivers on the podium while neither Carlin made it to the finish also means Russian Time goes into the lead of the teams championship.
However, the eventful race left the stewards with a lengthy list of incidents to look at post-event. While nothing should affect the podium trio, everything from Palmer's unsafe release from the Carlin pit lane with his wheel improperly attached, to the clash between Cecotto and Canamasas, to a slew of cars cited for not respecting yellow flags at some point during the event will be looked at. The stewards' office will be a busy place and doubtless be working long into the Italian evening before it's all sorted out and any post-race penalties fully sorted out.
See full race results