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.