For the second meeting in succession, France proved the class of the field with another commanding performance that stretched the teams winning streak to four consecutive wins from six races.

In a race that saw no less than three safety car periods, Alexandre Premat was never headed throughout, although the order behind him changed continuously until Switzerland finally crossed the line in second place, while Ralph Firman gifted Ireland their first podium with an impressive drive from the back of the field for third.

There was drama immediately after the start with three cars stalling, including that of Nelson Piquet Jr. who was forced to start from the back of the grid as the safety car was brought out for the first time to also remove the Netherlands car of Jos Verstappen and Mikhail Aleshin in the Russian entry.

As soon as the safety car peeled into the pit lane, most of the drivers chose to do their mandatory pit stop, leaving France in a comfortable lead yet again ahead of the Czech Republic and Portugal, Alvaro Parente clearly attempting to put on a good show for the home fans.

Elsewhere, Enrico Toccacelo was given a drive through penalty after his excellent start, which vaulted him from 11th to fourth, was deemed to be rather too excellent so as to be classed as legal. Indonesia too was having a great race, with Ananda Mikola finding his way past Great Britain and South Africa, before spinning off almost immediately and putting himself out of the running.

Lap ten saw the next safety car period when Team Canada's Sean McIntosh hit Salvador Duran heavily, placing both himself and the Mexican out of the race. During this period Tomas Schekter became another casualty when he pulled off with broken rear suspension, a legacy of the contact with another car at the start of the race.

It was not long before the safety car made its third appearance after the recovering Jos Verstappen made an 'over ambitious' move on Adrian Sutil in the German entry, putting both drivers out of the race on the spot.

Despite the interruption though, France looked in command of the race, which was eventually ended prematurely after the safety car periods meant the one hour limit had been breached. He was followed by Neel Jani and Ralph Firman in the Switzerland and Ireland entries, the duo steadily rising through the field as the race continued.

Indeed, Czech Republic were heading for a podium until they were given a drive through penalty for pit lane speeding, while Parente saw his hopes of a maiden top three position dashed when he stalled during his pit stop. He eventually finished the race in a strong fifth place, trailing Scott Speed, the American scoring his and the teams first points.

Australia and Italy both recovered to sixth and seventh, ahead of Nelson Piquet who fought back to finish eighth for Brazil. Czech Republic and Austria rounded out the top ten.

Premat was delighted to have matched Nicolas Lappiere's feat from two weeks ago in Germany. "The race was great, I had another good start - although the re-starts varied, some were good and some were bad, it was hard to keep Scott Speed and Nelson Piquet behind me. The car was great to drive again, I did the fastest laps and we are leading the series. I wish Nicolas Lapierre good luck for the next race."

Jani too was pleased to have come away from Portugal with two well earned podium finishes, proving that Switzerland could be a dark horse for this years title. "I had a good start, but nearly got pushed into the wall and had to be careful not to crash," the GP2 race winner mused.

"I suffered from oversteer in the beginning of the race but after the pit stop the car got better. I nearly took first place during a re-start - but again nearly got pushed into the wall and was lucky not to crash. I'm looking forward to winning a race, we seem to be getting better and better every race, we are definitely progressing."

Recording Ireland's best race position so far, Ralph Firman said, "It has been a good weekend, despite having problems with the gearbox in Qualifying and I lost my front wing in the Sprint race. I went off the track trying to get past Canada, and thought my race was over, but I managed to get back on track and had a great pit stop which really helped a lot."

"I overtook Scott Speed during one of the re-starts, which was fantastic. The luck of the Irish seems to be working."

With the next race in Australia, at Sydney's Eastern Creek circuit, France has now established a commanding eight point lead over Brazil, although Switzerland were also big winners of the day rising up to third place, just ahead of New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Ireland.

Team Great Britain and Robbie Kerr left the weekend pointless after retiring in race one and then managing only 12th in the second race. The team is now ninth in the championship standings with 15 points.

 

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