Lewis Hamilton turned in a stellar performance to overcome a drive-thru penalty and take his first GP2 Series win at the Nurburgring, beating ART Grand Prix team-mate Alex Premat into second place.

The Briton was on it from the very start, making the most of bad starts for front row pairing Nelson Piquet Jr and Franck Perera to contest the lead with Hiroki Yoshimoto into turn one. Although he allowed the Japanese driver room to come through initially, he wasted little time in passing the BCN car and then pulled clear as Yoshimoto came under pressure from, and succumbed to, Jose Maria Lopez.

Piquet eventually emerged from the usual first corner scramble in eighth place, but there was no such good fortune for Perera, whose DAMS car could be seen pulling off at the exit of turn two, mechanical stress the most likely cause of early retirement.

Behind the front three, Adam Carroll, Ernesto Viso, Premat and Nicolas Lapierre filled the gap back to Piquet, all bar the second ART driver having made up ground at the getaway. Premat and Lapierre were among the first to pit, however, quickly breaking the train as they and others further back opted for fresh rubber at the end of lap two. Hamilton, though, was already streaking away, pulling out almost a second a lap over Lopez, with Yoshimoto falling away from the Super Nova car.

Piquet opted to make his mandatory stop on lap five, hoping that a new set of tyres would help to stem the leak of time to the leader enough to close the gap when Hamilton pitted, but the Brazilian found himself returning to the track behind Imola sparring partner Viso, who continued to frustrate his efforts for several more laps, both drivers losing time as a result of some entertaining dicing before Piquet finally made a move stick on lap twelve.

With Lopez having committed to new tyres around the same time as the Brazilian, and Yoshimoto almost nine seconds adrift by lap seven, Hamilton's stop on lap eleven was a mere formality, returning the Briton to the head of the queue of those to have changed rubber and trailing only the Japanese and Carroll, both of whom were choosing to stretch their original tyres as far as possible.

Carroll continued to lead until stopping on lap 16, allowing Hamilton to resume up front. The ART car had a comfortable cushion over the sister machine in the hands of Premat, but the outcome was turned on its head when Hamilton was then called for a drive-thru penalty as the result of pit-lane speeding. The misdemeanour allowed Premat to inherit the lead, but returned Hamilton to the fray close enough behind the Frenchman, and enough time remaining, to make it interesting.

What few would have reckoned on, however, was the difference in pace between the two cars, with Premat only getting down to 1min 43secs laps when Hamilton - lapping in the 1min 42s - was right on his tail. Although the Frenchman resisted for a lap or two, there was no stopping his rookie team-mate and, having forced his way through in the opening complex of lap 23, Hamilton resumed normal service and began to open out a large gap. In the end, the margin of victory resembled those enjoyed by Piquet and Gianmaria Bruni at the first two rounds, albeit with more incident along the way.

"It's a fantastic result for myself, and the team," the Briton beamed afterwards, "Unfortunately, I made a mistake and got a drive-through, but, to get the win after the penalty is fantastic, and to get a 1-2 for the team couldn't be better."

Premat, having benefited from his early stop to enjoy an otherwise comfortable run to second, and his first podium of the year, remained well ahead of what became an intriguing battle for third place, with Lapierre, Piquet and Carroll all closing on to the rear wing of Lopez.

"For sure, this was really nice because it was so long without champagne and podiums!" Premat said, "I am really grateful, and I really want to push for a win as soon as possible."

Piquet and Lapierre had already made contact before the Brazilian pulled off a dramatic out-braking move into the final chicane, Carroll taking full advantage of the surprise to also demote Lapierre on the run through the long final corner that followed.

The Arden car remained in touch, however, as the train latched on to the back of Lopez and looked set to challenge for the final podium spot. Piquet couldn't quite get close enough though and, with his tyres in better condition having delayed his stop until almost half-distance, Carroll became more of an irritant to the Brazilian than he could be to the Argentine.

"The car was perfect, and I think I was good to my tyres so, once the guys started making mistakes, I just put the pressure on them and that was it," Carroll commented, "I just went for it!"

The Racing Engineering driver, enjoying his best weekend of the season so far, finally found a way past Piquet on lap 31, the Brazilian clearly struggling with his tyres after several lock-ups under braking. Lapierre quickly followed suit for fifth, before Piquet speared off circuit on the run back up the hill. Its front left tyre clearly flapping in the breeze - the result of the lock-up incurred passing Lapierre at the Veedol chicane - the Piquet Sports car barely slowed across the expanse of gravel before slamming, nose first, into the tyre wall. Despite a delay in climbing out, however, Piquet was largely unhurt, nursing only a sore wrist as he was helped to the ambulance.

His exit promoted those behind - Viso and Zuber - while allowing Yoshimoto, who had lost considerable ground during his pit-stop, back into the points. The BCN driver had Alex Negrao for company, however, and the Brazilian had already worked his way past when Zuber also ran into tyre problems - for the second successive race. The Austrian tried to struggle on with a delaminating right front, but eventually it went flat, allowing both Negrao and Yoshimoto to move ahead of the Trident car. Viso, who had been coming under increasing pressure from those behind, was thus spared an inquest before the flag, despite the iSport machine looking a little lacking in grip in the closing stages.

 

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