Heikki Kovalainen shrugged off a 14-place qualifying penalty to show the GP2 field exactly why he was installed as pre-season favourite at the Nurburgring.
The Finn again used an early pit-stop strategy to help give him a run on the field, which had already been decimated by a string of start-line stalls and then a five-car pile-up instigated by Borja Garcia at turn one.
Kovalainen's ploy allowed him to rise to the front of the field, easing ahead of early leader Giorgio Pantano as the Italian made his stop. The pair then romped away from the remaining runners, with Nico Rosberg also belying his own 14-place penalty to take a comfortable third place.
Rosberg's ART Grand Prix team-mat, Alex Premat, eventually claimed fourth place, but not before he had been involved in a frantic battle that could have seen him take any position between fourth and eighth. A last lap pass on Nelson Piquet Jr eventually secured fourth for the Frenchman, with Neel Jani holding off the equally rapid Clivio Piccione for sixth.
Gianmaria Bruni had run second to Pantano for a long time at the start of the race, but eventually found his tyres going off and slid back through the field to take a lonely eighth place at the flag.
The race began in almost farcical circumstances, with the luckless Hiroki Yoshimoto again the victim of gremlins before the warm-up lap. That was only the beginning, however, as BCN team-mate Ernesto Viso and Arden's Nicolas Lapierre then stalled at the first attempt to start the race, prompting another formation lap while the two stricken cars were removed to the pits. Even then, the pantomime wasn't over, however, with Ryan Sharp and Scott Speed spotted waving their arms at the second start.
Another warm-up lap around the scorching 'Ring later, the race finally got underway, although Rosberg and Can Artam both made slow getaways, the German dropping to the back of the field as his ART Dallara crawled off the line.
Apparently undistracted by the goings-on behind him, Pantano made a good start, fending off Bruni into the first corner, as Jani attempted to find a way past fellow second row starter Jose Maria Lopez. Further back, however, Jani's team-mate, Borja Garcia, was about to try a kamikaze move down the inside, eventually accounting for four drivers other than himself in an incident that brought out the safety car and delayed racing proper until what should have been roughly the fifth lap.
Eliminated in the Garcia-inspired melee was Monaco race winner Adam Carroll, the Irishman the unwitting brake for the Spaniard's car, while Olivier Pla, Alex Negrao and Ferdinando Monfardini all became involved, the Italian ending up perched on top of his Brazilian rival.