Full sprint race results
and championship standings
Carlin's Felipe Nasr has been such a strong presence in the GP2 Series since his debut in 2012 that it's been hard to believe that he hadn't actually won a race: ten podium positions over two seasons, but never the top spot. Until now that is, after he finally found himself in a position to clinch a win following a successful early pass on the polesitter and then holding up under pressure from the championship leader before going on to to build up an unassailable 7.6 second lead by the chequered flag.
"The team really deserve this," he said after the finish. "It hasn't been about performance, the pace was always there but today it all came together. It means a lot to me and the team.
"I knew that if we got the lead we could control the pace and try and maintain the tyres," he added. "The start of the race was great for me. I knew it was all going to be done at the start, the track was damp and I was just concentrating on getting temperature into the tyres. I passed several drivers into turn one and then it was all about getting the lead."
It had been Arden's last-minute substitute driver Tom Dillmann who had been promoted to pole position overnight for the Sunday morning sprint race, putting him alongside series rookie Tio Ellinas following Rene Binder's overnight penalty in Saturday's race. But the drivers lined up in somewhat different conditions from the warm and sunny feature event following overnight rain which had left the track damp but rapidly drying ahead of the start of the GP2 race.
When the lights went out Dillmann quickly converted his pole position to an early lead while Ellinas got too much wheelspin and was engulfed by a pack of cars, including Nasr who had weaved his way up from sixth on the grid to third place in the run down to the first turn, and then quickly got the better of Rio Haryanto for second place through the next few corners. Nasr immediately started to apply the pressure on Dillmann for the race lead, and while the Frenchman fought valiantly it was soon clear that Nasr's superior pace was too much for him to succeed for long. On lap two the Brazilian finally completed the pass and Dillmann did well just to stop DAMS' Jolyon Palmer following him straight through in the same move.
Further down the order there were a number of incidents, including Rio Haryanto who locked up and ran off into the gravel while scraping for position with Palmer, and his Caterham team mate Nathanael Berthon getting spun by contact from MP Mptorsport's Daniel de Jong. Russian Time rookie Artem Markelov was also out with damage after tipping Simon Trummer into a spin, which had then caught out Venezuela GP Lazarus' Conor Daly who went off in avoidance only to end up running into the stricken Rapax beached in in the gravel trap. Markelov was later handed a five-place grid penalty for the Monaco feature race by the race stewards, who deemed him responsible for causing the initial incident.
Up front, Nasr continued to lead but Dillmann had fallen prey to a wonderfully opportunistic late-braking move by Palmer in turn 7 to take second place, and the DAMS driver now had the clear pace advantage over the race leader. He quickly reeled him in and started to apply the pressure on Nasr despite damage to the front wing from his earlier scrap with Haryanto - deja vu for the Briton who had also raced the whole of the feature event with endplate damage.
Behind Dillmann, Campos Racing's Arthur Pic was holding station in fourth place ahead of the second Carlin driven by Julian Leal followed by Mitch Evans (Russian Time), feature race winner Johnny Cecotto Jr. (Trident), Stephane Richelmi (DAMS) and Stefano Coletti (Racing Engineering) with Ellinas still rounding out the top ten, which was tightly packed on track with little clear space between the cars - around seven seconds still covered all ten cars at the midpoint of the race. With no mandatory pit stops to navigate in the sprint event, it was now down to how the drivers handled their tyre degradation as to whether anyone could take advantage in the closing stages of the race.
As the race got within eight laps of the finish, the competition out on track heated up with Evans and Cecotto having a particularly spirited duel over who got to keep sixth place. Evans was clearly struggling, and a massive lock-up left him a sitting duck not only for Cecotto but everyone else within hailing distance, and the Kiwi driver was eventually forced to call it a day and he pulled into the pits to retire two laps from the finish.
At the front, Nasr had seen off the threat from Palmer, who then suffered a late scare when he locked up with brake issues and ran off in turn 1 on lap 24. He was still able to get back on track well ahead of Dillmann, who had dropped back and was now himself having to work hard to fend off Pic for the final podium position. Dillmann did an excellent job in planting the Arden right on the crucial line and Pic found no way through before the chequered flag.
Behind Dillmann and Pic, Julian Leal got a late jump on Cecotto to clinch fifth position, while the remaining points positions were taken by Richelmi and Coletti. Just missing out were Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (Rapax) and Stoffell Vandoorne (ART), who had earlier pulled off a lovely overtaking move on Ellinas who went on to finished in 11th after his terrible start.
But at last, Felipe Nasr had finally bagged his first GP2 Series win. And in fine style, too - one can only think it will be the first of many now that this particular monkey is off his back. He was welcomed back to parc fermé by a sizeable contingent from Williams F1 who were delighted for their test and development driver's breakthrough success in the feeder series.
Jolyon Palmer was also relieved to add a second consecutive second place to his haul for the weekend, boosting his points tally to 70 far ahead of Julian Leal who narrowly retains second place in the standings from Nasr in third place, as the teams set off for round 3 in the unique setting of Monaco in two weeks' time.
Full sprint race results
and championship standings