CLICK: Full GP2 feature race 1 results
It took Felipe Nasr a long time to claim his first GP2 win, but now that he's tasted success he clearly wants more of it. He certainly wasted no time to leap to the front at the Red Bull Ring in Austria on Saturday afternoon, and thereafter he lead every single lap on his way to clinching the chequered flag.
Starting from pole position, Trident's Johnny Ceotto Jr. had struggled to get away from the grid and that allowed Nasr to propel his Carlin into the lead going into turn 1. Behind them Stefano Coletti (Racing Engineering) came off best in a three-wide battle for third place with Jolyon Palmer (DAMS) and Mitch Evans (Russian Time), who was now left fending off an aggressive Stoffel Vandoorne (ART) for fifth place. The Belgian finally managed to get down the inside of Evans on lap 2 to claim the position.
There had been plenty of minor incidents on the opening laps, the most noteworthy of which was Artem Markelov running up over the back of André Negrao's Arden as the field bunched up going into the second corner. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs was also obliged to visit the Rapax pit box for running repairs, while Campos Racing's Kimiya Sato became the first retirement of the race at the end of lap 1.
As things settled down it was clear that Cecotto didn't have the same sort of pace he'd shown in the changeable conditions on Friday in qualifying, and he lost second place to an insistent Coletti on lap 5. His momentum was checked in the process and that allowed Palmer to get by him as well, leaving Cecotto in fourth and in the cross hairs of Vandoorne and Evans, with Raffaele Marciello in seventh as the Italian determinedly fought back from a poor start that had dropped him four places before the first corner.
Vandoorne was the first of the leaders to come in for his mandatory pit stop on lap 10 to discard his fast-wearing options, while Palmer waited a further four laps before doing likewise. That delay cost Palmer, who returned to the track immediately behind Vandoorne.
The top ten cars had decided to start on the longer life prime tyres and therefore were still to make their mandatory stops as the 40-lap race reached its halfway point. Nasr had stretched out his lead to 2.3s over Coletti, Cecotto and Evans, with Rio Haryanto (Caterham) into fifth ahead of Tio Ellinas (MP Motorsport), Stephane Richelmi (DAMS) and Daniel Abt (Hilmer Motorsport). However, the threat of the early stoppers was made all too apparent by the inexorable progress of Vandoorne and Palmer who both popped in new fastest laps of the race as they closed down on and finally passed Rapax's Simon Trummer, the first of those who had yet to stop.
Vandoorne and Palmer teamed up again to mug Conor Daly for ninth place - the Venezuela GP Lazarus forced to run wide in the process much to the American's annoyance. Daly was forced to pit next time by, and that seemed to ring alarm bells for the rest of the drivers yet to pit with Cecotto, Richelmi and Ellinas all heading for their mandatory pit stop sooner than they would have ideally hoped for.
Evans and Abt were also in on lap 28 leaving just the top two holding on despite their now well-worn original set of tyres. Finally Nasr and Coletti could wait no longer, and with ten laps remaining they was called in for their own stops: when they came back out, Nasr managed to keep the lead by a little over a second while Coletti exited only fractionally ahead of Vandoorne. However Coletti was on cold tyres, and that meant he couldn't defend the position through the next series of curves.
Behind them, Marciello had taken the opportunity to get the jump on Palmer for fourth place and he then pressed on to steal third from his team mate Coletti for good measure with an identical move. Cecotto was also looking rejuvenated on his new set of soft options as he ran in sixth ahead of Alexander Rossi and Mitch Evans, the Kiwi managing to pass Rossi on lap 35 as the Caterham started to struggle badly on its degrading tyres.
Nasr was using his new tyres to scamper away to safety as best he could, pulling almost four seconds clear of the three-way battle for the runner-up positions between Vandoorne, Marciello and Coletti. However the different tyre strategies had now all played out meaning that no one had a sufficient performance edge over their rivals to make a decisive move, even when Vandoorne locked up on the final lap potentially opening the door a little to a possible strike by Marciello.
In the end the running order remained unchanged to the finish, Nasr easily capturing his second GP2 career victory after his first win last month at Catalunya. That made it a perfect day for the Williams F1 team for which he acts as test and development driver, and which had earlier locked out the front row for the Austrian Grand Prix.
Vandoorne and Marciello joined Nasr on the podium ahead of Coletti, Palmer, Cecotto and Evans, while Alexander Rossi held on to eighth place meaning that the Caterham will start Sunday's sprint race 2 on pole position under the reverse grid rules.
The shorter 28-lap sprint race 2 will be on Sunday morning at 10.35am (9.35am BST). The race will be shown live in the UK on Sky Sports F1.
Full GP2 feature race 1 results