CLICK: Full race results from the GP2 sprint race at Spa-Francorchamps
CLICK: Latest GP2 championship standings
Felipe Nasr continued to claw back some ground on GP2 championship leader Jolyon Palmer with his fourth win of the year in the second race at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday morning.
The Williams F1 test and development driver was rewarded for his battling performance in Saturday's feature race which saw him start the sprint event from fifth place on the grid. That gave him the ideal position to take advantage of pole sitter Daniel Abt running wide into La Source, the Carlin easily able to sweep around the hairpin and take the lead.
Abt was initially able to hold on to second place, but the Hilmer Motorsport car then found itself trying to go through Les Combes side-by-side with the DAMS of Jolyon Palmer. Palmer was sent over the chicane while Abt had to work hard to stop himself from spinning, which opened the door for Johnny Cecotto Jr. to squeeze through into third place in the Trident.
Palmer rejoined the circuit and held on to second spot for the remainder of the first lap despite heavy pressure from Cecotto going into the bus stop chicane which required Palmer to defend robustly with the sharpest of elbows. While he managed it there it was a short-lived victory, the Trident much faster in the run up the hill which saw Cecotto blast past Palmer in the Kemmel Straight.
That opened up an attack vector for Cecotto to reel in the race leader, but while the gap did indeed close up considerably - at one point, it appeared just a matter of time before Nasr would be forced to succumb - it eventually became apparent that the Brazilian was in complete control. Anytime that Ceotto got too close, Nasr was able to respond and pull away again. Finally Cecotto (and his tyres) got the message and by the finish of the race he had dropped back five points off the Carlin at the finish line.
Behind the lead pair, Palmer settled in to a relatively calm rum to the final podium position. The only scare came on the final lap, when a flying Mitch Evans in the Russian Time #1 got around Daniel Abt when the Hilmer struggled for power in the final climb up from Eau Rouge to Les Combes. Easily able to get around for fourth place, Evans then charged down Palmer and was within four tenths of a second of overhauling the Briton when the chequered flag came out. Despite his late technical problems, Abt held on for fifth place ahead of local hero Stoffel Vandoorne in the ART.
The two Racing Engineering drivers had contrasting days, with Saturday race winner Raffaele Marciello starting from eighth position but spinning at Les Combes on the first lap after contact with Evans. That set him back to 24th position, leaving him with a hard day at the office as he fought his way back to 14th place by the finish.
By contrast, Marciello's team mate Stefano Coletti started from 24th position but managed to avoid all the usual starting antics at La Source to climb up to 13th place by the end of the first lap, from where he continued to battle hard and work his way forward. In the closing laps he was able to use his still-mighty pace to cruise around the outside of Arden's Andre Negrao at Les Combes for seventh place to complete his storming comeback drive.
Not making the distance were Hilmer Motorsport's Jon Lancaster, Russian Time's Artem Markelov and Trident's Sergio Canamasas. Lancaster's retirement was unspectacular as mechanical issues forced him to pull over on lap 4, while Canamasas spun out of Eau Rouge on lap 15. The car stalled and was removed under local waved yellow without recourse to a safety car.
Markelov had a more torrid time of it: after starting on the front row alongside Abt, the Russian was handicapped by being on the damper side of the grid and was soon haemorrhaging placed until final collision damage put him on pit lane for length repairs. Also requiring an extended service was Rapax's Adrian Quaife-Hobbs who understeered off at Eau Rouge early in the race and wrecked his front wing on the barrier. He was able to get back underway and finished in 14th place despite the mishap.
In terms of the championship standings, finishing ahead of Palmer in both the feature and sprint races means that Nasr has now pulled back 11 points on the championship leader who nonetheless stays out in front by 32 points with three race weekends remaining, the next of which is Monza on September 5-7.
"Nothing is over yet," insisted Nasr on the podium. "We've just taken our fourth win and we've shown how strong we are.
"Yesterday we came back from 11th on the grid to take fourth and today to take the win," he added. "There's many points to play for and I'm already looking forward to the next race.
"I think we've shown it's not always about being aggressive, it's about being consistent and pushing hard," he summed up.
See full race results from the GP2 sprint race at Spa-Francorchamps
plus latest GP2 championship standings