Alex Premat took his first GP2 Series win in the second event of the Hungaroring weekend, turning ART Grand Prix's potential nightmare into a success story as he headed home Nico Rosberg in another 1-2 result for the French squad.
The Frenchman secured victory in a race interrupted twice by safety car periods, meaning that it became the first event in series' history to run to a time limit rather than maximum lap count. At the end of its 45-minute duration, Premat was ahead of Rosberg, with the resurgent Giorgio Pantano claiming his second podium finish of the weekend.
The ART pair were handed an early present when polesitter Xandi Negrao stalled on the warm-up lap and was pushed into the pit-lane, the second time the Hitech Piquet man has squandered a pole position in such fashion this season. As a result of his absence, Premat and Rosberg slotted in immediately behind front row starter - and sprint race 'specialist' - Olivier Pla and Ernesto Viso, who used the clear road in front of him to harry the Frenchman into turn one.
Saturday race winner Neel Jani managed to get the better of Giorgio Pantano and Heikki Kovalainen off the line, holding fifth place before being passed by the Italian, and then setting the scene for a reprise of the scrap with Kovalainen that enlivened the feature event. Nicolas Lapierre dropped in behind his Arden team-mate, with Jose Maria Lopez, Gianmaria Bruni and Adam Carroll giving early chase.
Behind them, Scott Speed stalled on the grid, but eventually got away under his own steam. Ironically, the space between the iSport car and the seething pack gave the American the ability to run the fastest lap on the second tour, but things were far from right with the Red Bull machine and Speed was into the pits next time around for a slow stop.
At the front, Pla appeared to be en route
to his third sprint race victory in as many attempts, the DPR driver pulling away from Viso, who appeared unable to do anything about the Frenchman's pace. The Venezuelan, who looked extremely fast for most of race one, then dropped back dramatically on lap four, joining Speed in the pits as his bad luck returned after brief respite on Saturday.
Viso's demise promoted Premat into second place, but he was some five seconds behind Pla, and had team-mate Rosberg in close company, as the leading trio edged away from Pantano. The gap between the two Frenchmen had widened by another second by lap seven, when Jose Maria Lopez repeated his race one exit with a far from graceful loop into the barriers, this time part way around the lap.
With the DAMS Dallara sitting close to the edge of the track, Lopez also suffered the ignominy of bringing out his second safety car of the weekend to enable the marshals to crane the stricken car away.
The pace remained controlled for four laps, with the gap between Pla, Premat and Rosberg wiped out at a stroke. However, that didn't appear to bother Pla as he set about rebuilding his advantage when the Mercedes ducked back into the pits. Behind the leading pair, Pantano was keeping Rosberg honest, even if he couldn't quite get alongside the German, while Kovalainen was finding it equally difficult to get past Jani, who was driving completely different lines on track and leaving little on offer to the Finn, who frequently found himself on the dirt as he tried new angles of his own.