Heikki Kovalainen held his nerve under race-long pressure from championship rival Nico Rosberg to take a win in race one at Monza, with Nelson Piquet Jr taking third place behind the pace-setting pair.
The title rivals filled the front row and duly led the pack away, despite Rosberg having to survive a collision with ART Grand Prix team-mate Alex Premat on the second lap. However, having established himself in second spot, the German proved unable to find a way past Arden driver Kovalainen, despite after looking at his rear wing for almost the entire 32-lap race.
Kovalainen also had a close shave at the start of the race, going wheel-to-wheel with Jose Maria Lopez, who had made a rocket-like start from row three, but was still the first man through the chicane, followed by Rosberg, Scott Speed and an equally fast-starting Piquet.
Behind them, however, some typical Monza mayhem ensued, with Juan Cruz Alvarez crossing the track sharply at the start and leaving Olivier Pla, who was slow away due to team-mate Giorgio Mondini stalling in front of him, nowhere to go but make contact with the Argentine's car. To cap a bad day for DPR, Mondini also failed to complete the first lap, while newcomer Toni Vilander and the more experienced Xandi Negrao both stalled, prompting the race director to call for the safety car.
Pla's broken car was promptly removed, and the field was released one lap later, with Kovalainen leading away - from Piquet, who cut the first chicane and rejoined ahead of Rosberg, the German also falling behind ART colleague Premat. As he looked for a way by his team-mate, who had got the jump on him at the restart, the two ART cars made brief contact, Rosberg catching Premat's right rear tyre and spinning the Frenchman off track. Premat narrowly missed a group of marshals and finished his race on the opposite side of the track with a badly broken car.
A large number of drivers had taken what they thought would be an opportunity to pit under extended yellow flags, but were caught out by the prompt restart. Among them, Speed never actually re-emerged from the pit-lane, after the iSport team discovered a problem with his car, thwarting another victory opportunity for the American.
Out in front, Kovalainen was gradually being caught by Rosberg, the German not appearing to have suffered any ill-effects from his collision with Premat as he blew past Piquet for second place. However, the ART car was unable to make any further headway as Kovalainen held firm at the front.
Ernesto Viso had climbed into a strong fourth position while all around appeared to be losing their heads, but the luckless Venezuelan was the next to park up, having been forced off track in a racing incident with Sergio Hernandez, who attempted to pass the BCN car at the chicane. The hard-charging Borja Garcia was also out, after tangling with Negrao while trying to pass the lapped Brazilian.
By lap six, the order at the front had started to settle down, with Kovalainen leading, just, from Rosberg, and Piquet, Nicolas Lapierre, Giorgio Pantano and Clivio Piccione following in line astern. Every other driver, except last-placed debutant Vilander, had pitted by this point, and had fallen some way behind.