His team-mate may have taken the sponsor to Trident Racing, but Gianmaria Bruni was 'the Dominator' at Imola, romping to a GP2 Series win reminiscent of Nelson Piquet's in Valencia a fortnight ago.

The Italian romped away from pole and took his mandatory pit-stop under the safety car, thereby securing his lead into the second half of the race, when his closest challenger appeared to be Piquet himself. However, the Trident car was able to pull away at a comfortable rate, eventually crossing the line ten seconds clear.

"I was focused all race, and we did a very good pit-stop, where the team did a really fantastic job I need to say thank-you to them because that's why I'm here and I won," Bruni said, "I just drove for fun!"

The gap had been more while Piquet was in second spot, but the Brazilian slowed dramatically in the closing stages, dropping behind Arden twins Michael Ammermuller and Nicolas Lapierre, the German having got the better of his French team-mate a couple of laps earlier for a second GP2 podium. Piquet also dropped behind Alex Premat to eventually finish a disappointed fifth.

"We started at the back and we finished second," Ammermuller said, "It's a really good feeling to know we can make the podium in the first race. My race pace was good and I'm just really happy."

Ernesto Viso claimed sixth ahead of his former BCN team, which took the final two points places with Timo Glock and Hiroki Yoshimoto to lock out the front row for Sunday's sprint race. Glock started from the pit-lane after stalling on the grid, and his rise up the order mirrored Yoshimoto's late slide, which took him from second to eighth by the chequer.

The pair were fortunate to score at all, however, with Adam Carroll, Tristan Gommendy, Fairuz Fauzy and Andreas Zuber all losing top eight positions through misfortune or misjudgement in a incident-filled race.

Bruni made a perfect getaway from pole, as Lewis Hamilton and Hiroki Yoshimoto flew past Jose Maria Lopez to take second and third. The Italian wasn't hanging about, however, and immediately started pulling out a gap over the ART car, with Yoshimoto dropping back in third and Lopez stopping on the straight at the start of lap two. Piquet had been following the Argentine closely, and his nose bore signs of contact, but the Super Nova team pointed the finger at hydraulic problems for Lopez's retirement

The action was intense the length of the field, with Lucas di Grassi making a stunning getaway to sit 14th by lap four, having had to start from last on the grid after a technical irregularity was discovered after qualifying. His run was not to last long, however, as he ran deep into the Villeneuve chicane on lap eight, not long after his mandatory pit-stop, and slammed heavily into the barriers as he tried to get back on track.

With debris scattered across the circuit, the safety car was deployed, but not quickly enough to help Olivier Pla, who pulled off across the road from di Grassi. Whether cause or effect is unclear, but the DPR car trailed smoke behind it as it exited.

The top nine drivers all took their chance to stop under the pace car, with Hamilton getting out first, using the opportunity to take a drive-through penalty for jumping the start. Exiting the pits, the young Briton saw the two Campos Racing cars - Adrian Valles having started from the pits after stalling and Felix Porteiro after an excursion at Rivazza - passing the safety car as it waited to pick up the leader, and he followed them through, incorrectly figuring their position in the race order.

It would prove a costly mistake. Although he pitted on the next lap for new tyres, and the safety car came back to the pits, Hamilton was black-flagged for passing it after his initial stop, allowing Bruni to lead again, followed by Yoshimoto, Piquet, Premat, Lapierre and Ammermuller. The Japanese was soon passed by Piquet and then suffered a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit-lane, dropping himself out of the points. The Arden boys, meanwhile, both got past Premat as the Frenchman got caught up trying to make a move of his own on Yoshimoto.

Further back, a queue was forming behind Luca Filippi, who was driving a great race in eighth to fend off all challenges to the FMS car. As the impatience behind him grew, a rash lunge from Ferdinando Monfardini saw both two Italians neatly pirouette off at Villeneuve, allowing Zuber to inherit the final points position.

Ahead of the battle for eighth, Viso was harassing Carroll for sixth, and the normally unflappable Ulsterman spun off - and out - under pressure. That allowed Gommendy, who had made a move on a tyre-troubled Zuber for eighth, into the points, only for the French driver to see his race end in the gravel after a coming together with the lapped Fairuz Fauzy, who was trying to repass the iSport car but carried far too much speed into Tosa to get the job done neatly.

With Zuber also out as his left rear continued to delaminate, Glock and Yoshimoto took seventh and eighth after their respective woes, and now occupy the prime spots to give BCN a first win.

Sixth went to Viso, the first man unable to make the most of Piquet falling back down the order as he struggled with fading brakes over the final three laps. Premat just managed to complete his pass on the Brazilian before the chequered flag, and was just over a second adrift of A1GP team-mate Lapierre at the flag.

Lapierre had, in turn, been passed by Arden team-mate Ammermuller just a few laps from home, but still completed the team's second double podium visit when Piquet slipped backwards through the field

"I'm disappointed to have lost a position, but I was still on the podium, so I have to be happy about that too," Lapierre admitted later.

The battle for fastest lap was again spoiled by the new rule exempting anyone starting from pit-lane. Valles' recovery drive - which took him all the way back up to ninth - included the quickest tour of the race, but his stall at the start cost him a point. Piquet was next in line to claim it, but was adjudged to have cut the chicane on his fastest lap, handing the bonus - and a clean sweep of 13 points - to race winner Bruni, who moves into second place in the standings, two marks behind Piquet.

 

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