Stoffel Vandoorne picked up his seventh GP2 win for ART and his third consecutive feature victory of the 2015 season with an impressive combination of opportunistic race strategy and calm tyre management on the streets of Monaco, after a crucial pit stop bumped the McLaren F1 test and development driver ahead of feature race pole sitter Alexander Rossi.

CLICK: Full GP2 feature race 1 results from Monaco

After the previous day's rain-hit qualifying, Friday saw Monaco looking fully restored to its picture postcard self and was bathed in glorious sunshine in time for the GP2 field to line-up on the grid for the start of the 42-lap feature race 1 on Friday morning.

The start procedure was already well underway when race control was forced to abort the first attempt to get the race underway as Nobuharu Matsushita had stalled on the grid in the ART. Five cars behind him on the grid were also caught out and promptly stalled in sympathy, leading to chaotic scenes as marshalls scrambled to get them back underway. A further delay waiting for the affected cars to get back under power and make their way around the circuit combined with confusion over who was to start where led to a spiralling risk of the lead cars cooking themselves as they idled on the start/finish straight. The decision was finally taken to turn off the engines and re-form the entire grid rather than risk having half a dozen cars attempting to race their way out of pit road as would normally be the case with stallers. Missing out on the reset was Pierre Gasly who was deemed to have jumped the start thereby contributing to the ensuing festival of stalled cars, meaning that the DAMS was removed onto pit lane before the next attempt to get the race underway.

When the lights did finally go out almost 20 minutes later than scheduled at the start of a race now two laps shorter, Raffaele Marciello (Trident) had an epic launch off the grid and put his supersoft Pirelli option tyres to perfect use as he blasted past pole sitter Rossi in the run down to the first corner, while further back there was the usual barging and overshooting of the Sainte Devote chicane but no major incidents, although Zoel Amberg needed to pit the Lazarus for front wing damage at the end of lap 1.

By the end of lap 1, Marciello already had a two second lap over Rossi who had opted for the soft prime tyres for his first stint. Arthur Pic (Campos Racing) had successfully maintained third over Vandoorne, while Rossi's Racing Engineering team mate Jordan King was making good use of his own supersofts to move up from eighth on the grid to fifth ahead of Sergey Sirotkin (Rapax), Julian Leal (Carlin) and Sergio Canamasas who had his hands full holding off his MP Motorsport team mate Daniel de Jong in an early pitched battle, while Richie Stanaway (Status Grand Prix) had picked up four places to run in tenth place.

Marciello's early pace soon evaporated as the supersofts proved to have a very short life expectancy indeed, and the Italian was in at the end of lap 8 to change to the prime tyres. He was soon joined by the 16 other drivers that were on the same tyre strategy including Pic, King, De Jong and Matsushita. When Marciello emerged back out on track he was running in 11th place behind Pic who had succeeded in getting the jump on him on pit lane.

So far the race had been relatively incident-free - remarkably so for Monaco - although Robert Visoiu swiftly earned a five-second penalty after his Rapax strayed far outside the track limits at turn 1 while battling with Rio Haryanto (Campos Racing) and Marlon Stockinger (Status Grand Prix) at the start.

The first retirements came on lap 8 when Matsushita retired after heavy contact with de Jong at the Nouvelle Chicane: the Dutch driver was able to continue while Matsushita was handed a grid penalty for Saturday's sprint race for causing the collision. Next to head to the sidelines was Carlin's Marco Sorensen after he was barged into the barriers at the apex of the casino hairpin on lap 10 by the Arden of Norman Nato. That earned Nato a ten-second penalty, while Nick Yelloly (Hilmer Motorsport) and Artem Markelov (Russian Time) were themselves subsequently placed under post-race investigation for not observing the yellow flags in the sector while the Sorensen's car was being craned away. Whatever the outcome of that visit to the race stewards proves to be, Markelov was already out of the race after the Russian Time car retired in pit lane following damage to the car from contact with the barriers.

Rossi was settled in for a long first haul on the prime tyres, holding a second advantage on lap 15 over Vandoorne who was pushing hard to stay within reach of the race leader. Sirotkin was four seconds further back down the road followed by Leal, Canamasas, Stanaway, Yelloly, Mitch Evans (Russian Time) and Nathanael Berthon (Lazarus) with Pic the first of the drivers to have made their mandatory pit stop now up to tenth place ahead of Marciello.

Tenth for Pic quickly became ninth on lap 18 when Evans tried to dive past Yelloly coming out of the tunnel and ended up with a wrecked car for his pains, the field being placed under a virtual safety car for the clean-up. That gave the leaders the opportunity to dive in for their mandatory pit stops, with Vandoorne getting the jump on Rossi in a very tight battle on pit lane, coming back out onto the track in the lead. However it was a much earlier stop than had been originally planned, and Vandoorne now faced the daunting prospect of making the short-lived supersoft tyres last another 20 laps - half the race.

Leal found himself up to third place after clashing on pit lane with Sirotkin, who had fallen to sixth place as a result of the incident. Already more than ten seconds off the leading pair, Leal would later be handed a further ten second penalty for an unsafe release. Pic and Canamasas were the highest-placed of the cars on prime tyres, and while these were definitely the more durable of the tyre compounds available to the field this weekend they were also now quite old, setting up a finely-balanced contest over the closing stages of the race.

After a brief second virtual safety car for debris in the exit of the Swimming Pool, Canamasas made an unexpectedly impressive move into Sainte Devote at the start of lap 28 to take fourth place away from Pic. At least Pic didn't have to worry unduly about Sirotkin behind him, as the Russian was nursing damage to the Rapax as a result of his pit lane clash with Leal. Despite that handicap, Sirotkin still had plenty in hand over Stanaway who in turn wasn't feeling too much pressure from Marciello who had been unable to find his way through the traffic and was now steadfastly stuck in eighth ahead of King and Yelloly.

With ten laps still remaining in the shortened race, Vandoorne was on the team radio to report that the supersofts were indeed starting to show serious signs of degradation. However Rossi was in the same boat in second place which meant that the two second margin between them remained stable; Leal was already running far behind them in third place even before his penalty was factored in, but his presence on the track prevented Canamasas, Pic, Sirotkin and Stanaway from gaining any advantage from the situation to make any progress.

Despite Pic trying his best to steal the final podium position from Canamasas, the order remained unchanged over the final laps and Vandoorne duly clinched the chequered flag with his final margin up to six seconds over Rossi after the American was forced to back off considerably in the final stages. Canamasas was promoted into third place for only his second GP2 podium after Leal's penalty was applied, with Pic having to settle for fourth ahead of Sirotkin.

Leal was eventually classified in sixth place just ahead of Stanaway, while Marciello held on to eighth to pick up the sprint race pole under GP2's reverse grid rules. Rounding out the points positions were King and Yelloly, with Trident's Rene Binder left on the outside looking in.

The next GP2 action will be the shorter 30-lap sprint race 2, which will be held on Saturday afternoon at 4.10pm (3.10pm BST) following the conclusion of F1 qualifying.

See full GP2 feature race 1 results from Monaco


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