Nelson Piquet survived all that the weather gods and his rivals could throw at him to finally clinch his maiden GP2 Series victory at a safety car-littered feature race at Spa-Francorchamps.

No fewer than four interruptions marked the first half of the race, while worsening conditions highlighted the end, but Piquet came through to clinch the ten points, heading Ernesto Viso and Nico Rosberg on the podium. The result held something notable for all three, as Viso clinched his best result of a troubled year and Rosberg inherited the points lead for the first time after title rival Heikki Kovalainen tried to play a tactical game, only to end up losing out big time.

The race started under ominous looking clouds but on a dry track, but two stallers - Nicolas Lapierre and Neel Jani, at either end of the field - meant another chaotic start, and promptly created the first safety car session. However, despite suspicions that the weather would worsen during the course of the race, few runners headed for the pits to complete their mandatory tyre change, mindful of the fact that they may need another should the rain begin to fall in earnest.

Front row starter Alex Premat had beaten polesitter Gianmaria Bruni on the straight drag to the La Source hairpin first time around, and was duly the first away when the safety car peeled off. Heikki Kovalainen, Piquet and Scott Speed fell in behind the lead pair, with Adam Carroll trying the American's nerve down the hill to Eau Rouge. Bruni was slightly slow away, however, and Kovalainen had nowhere to go but into the back of the Italian, damaging the nose of the Arden car but, like his victim, holding station.

Piquet, however, was on a charge, and was all over the rear of Kovalainen as the Finn gave everything he had just to hold the Brazilian behind him. Untroubled by the scrapping in his wake, Premat was able to pull away at the front, while Bruni was visibly pushing hard just to hold on.

Further back, Hiroki Yoshimoto undid all his good work in both qualifying and the early stages by sliding off track and into the wall, prompting a second appearance by the safety car. This time Premat, Piquet, Speed, Rosberg, Ernesto Viso and Xandi Negrao took the opportunity to make their pit-stops, while Bruni, Kovalainen, Carroll and Jose Maria Lopez stayed out at the head of the field, waiting for the possibility of rain before making their mandatory call for tyres.

Now back in front, Bruni pushed hard at the restart to build a gap over Kovalainen, but the effort was too much as the Italian looped into a big spin after putting a wheel on the damp kerbs, tearing both ends off his car when he found the wall. The incident brought the safety car back onto the track once more, but the leaders again opted not to make their stop, fearing that worse conditions were on the way.

Carroll had muscled his way past Kovalainen up the hill prior to Bruni's demise, and now led the field for the first time. With more runners opting to make their tyre stop under what was now the third safety car period in just a matter of laps, Premat led the pitted drivers in eighth position, running just ahead of Piquet.

At this point, with the field running at reduced pace, the rain finally started to fall, albeit only initially at the back of the track. That was enough, however, for Speed to pit a second time for wets, but the frontrunners decided to stay out yet again.

The race was finally restarted on lap twelve, with Carroll leading Kovalainen and Lopez cleanly through La Source. Behind them, Premat and Piquet ran like a train past Olivier Pla at the top of the hill, while Pla's DPR team-mate Giorgio Mondini also found the conditions not to his liking, failing to negotiate Eau Rouge cleanly and tearing both ends off his car at the top of the hill. The Italian was unhurt, despite hitting the end of the barrier at the side of the circuit, but, with debris strewn across the track, there was no option but for another safety car visit.

This was the frontrunners' big chance to make their stops but, with the rain stopping and starting, no-one was prepared to gamble that there wasn't worse to come. Added to that, the length of the Spa circuit mitigated against pitting to far into a safety car window and, once the initial opportunity had gone, the leading trio were resigned to staying out and praying for a downpour.

The race restarted yet again on lap 16, and it was clear to see how wet the conditions were becoming as Carroll ran very wide at La Source and lost the lead to Kovalainen. A little further back, a more defining moment took place, as Piquet and Premat touched under braking, the Frenchman being fired into the escape road by his Brazilian rival, effectively removing him from the 'lead' of the race. Premat took a while to find enough of a turning circle to rejoin the fray, but only got a few hundred yards from the point of impact when his suspension broke, leaving an irate Frenchman to throw his steering wheel away in disgust.

With no safety car this time around, the front of the field comprised Kovalainen, Lopez and Carroll - the only three drivers left to pit - with Piquet Rosberg and Viso in ever closer attendance. With just six laps to go, it was clear that an error in judgment had been made by those teams running at the front, especially as Piquet was reeling them in lap by lap, despite running on 'slicks'. Behind the Brazilian, Rosberg and Viso were having a battle of their own after storming drives through the field, the Venezuelan benefiting from having fitted wets at his stop. Both men had started on the sixth row but, with podium positions beckoning, were fighting each other as though for the win. Having swapped positions twice, Viso took an audacious line through Eau Rouge, effectively straight-lining the left-hander before finding enough of a tow from Rosberg to slingshot past the German well before Les Combes.

Piquet, aware that he was being chased down, had the option to sit and wait for the leading three to pit, but chose to push through the spray in order to give himself a cushion. He was quickly past Carroll, and onto the podium, at Les Combes before being helped further when, on lap 22, the inevitable happened and Kovalainen, Lopez and Carroll peeled into the pits.

That left Piquet as the new leader, while Viso and Rosberg continued to give chase, having opened up a comfortable gap over fourth place. That was initially occupied by Juan Cruz Alvarez, but Speed's second stop tactic was now paying dividends - and highlighting the wisdom of taking wets earlier in the piece - as he powered past the Argentine for a hard-earned fourth.

Alvarez clung on for a rare points finish for the Campos team, leading Borja Garcia and Negrao across the line. The Brazilian was leading a growing queue of drivers, headed by Mathias Lauda, who looked set for Sunday pole until the recovering Kovalainen tried to seize eighth place and a valuable point. The Finn's move resulted in a spin, however, and it was Carroll who came through to pick up the scraps, powering past Lauda to take the final point and putting himself at the front of the grid for the shorter sprint event. Kovalainen eventually rejoined in 15th place, no doubt kicking himself at making his Sunday task even greater as he tries to reclaim a series lead held since round one at Imola.

There was some solace for Premat after he was confirmed as having set the fastest race lap, gaining the two bonus points, but the Frenchman will not have been happy to see assailant Piquet cruise to a maiden series win, even if the Brazilian was also later penalised ten places on Sunday's grid.

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