Nelson Piquet Jr continued his inexorable pursuit of Lewis Hamilton with another maximum score in the GP2 Series feature race at Istanbul Park, heading his British rival across the line for the third straight race.

Piquet led from start to finish, opting for a late tyre stop in an attempt to see off all rivals, and emerged from pit-lane still ahead of the field. Although Hamilton had scythed through the pack after his own earlier stop, as he had at the start of the race from fifth on the grid, he had no answer to Piquet's late pace, the pair having traded fastest lap bonuses through the middle of the race. That allowed the Brazilian to add a vital extra point to his ten for victory and two for pole, leaving the pair just six points apart heading into Sunday's sprint round. Alex Premat was third for ART Grand Prix as the top three in the championship annexed the podium.

Piquet made no mistake at the start and, despite being on the outside line heading into turn one, still held sway at the front. Alongside him, however, Jose Maria Lopez made a miserable getaway, and began dropping down the order. Premat was the initial beneficiary of the Argentine's problems, jumping from fourth to second, but quickly found himself demoted by Giorgio Pantano, who was breaking Mike Thackwell's mark for F2/F3000/GP2 starts.

Hamilton, meanwhile, found himself muscled aside through the first couple of corners, the Briton no doubt keen to keep out of trouble with his main rival leading, but soon regained lost ground and, by the end of the lap, had demoted Lopez to claim fourth spot. He then set off after ART team-mate Premat, closing in on the Frenchman at the end of lap two, the pair running side-by-side through the final complex before Hamilton finally found a way through under braking at turn one next time around.

By the end of lap four, Piquet had opened out a gap of a couple of seconds over Pantano who, in turn, enjoyed a cushion back to Hamilton. Premat remained fourth, from Lopez, Lucas di Grassi, Ernesto Viso and Adam Carroll, who rounded out the provisional scorers list. Timo Glock, a seemingly permanent fixture on the podium in recent weeks, was outside the top ten after a poor start, and began the ball rolling with regard to pit-stops, looking to replicate successful tactics enjoyed in Germany and Hungary.

Viso was the first of the top eight to stop for tyres, calling in on lap five, but again had to watch as his iSport team-mate moved ahead. The Venezuelan's desire to make the mot of out-qualifying Glock had already seen him make contact with the rear of di Grassi's Durango machine, and he would not last too much longer, spinning out at turn eight on lap ten. Viso joined Gianmaria Bruni on the sidelines, the Italian caught out by finger trouble in the Trident pit which caused his right rear wheel to depart not long after he rejoined the fray.

Pantano was the next to stop, but had already ceded second spot to Hamilton as the Briton scythed down the inside at turn one on lap eight. That allowed the top two in the championship to run in similar positions in the race, but with the ART man doing the chasing. Piquet was some seven seconds up the road, but Hamilton began to reel off successive fastest laps to take tenths from the gap, both drivers appearing on course for late pit-stops as they attempted to make the most of the clear track ahead of them.

Piquet got wind of his pursuer's pace and responded by upping his own performance, the pair indulging in a battle of lap times, with a vital bonus point at stake for the winner. Premat, meanwhile, had pitted from third, rejoining at the head of those to have taken their mandatory tyre change, ahead of Pantano and Glock, but trailing a revised top eight that now boasted local hero Jason Tahinci, who was again employing his own late-stop tactics to ensure that the fans - and mutual team/event sponsor Petrol Ofisi - got the chance to see a Turk in the points.

Hamilton finally pitted on lap 14, just shy of half-distance in the 34-lap encounter, rejoining just ahead of team-mate Premat, who now enjoyed a gap back to Glock after Pantano joined a list of retirements that already included the names of Adrian Valles and Clivio Piccione. The ART duo ran in tandem in seventh and eighth, leading those to have made their stops, but still waiting for Piquet to make his move pitwards.

Tahinci was the first to succumb to Hamilton's next charge, the remaining FMS International pilot not making life easy for the points leader but eventually giving way at the final chicane. Free of traffic until he closed on Sergio Hernandez, Hamilton again began to bang in fastest laps, chipping away at Piquet's advantage while the Brazilian continued to run on used rubber.

The Briton was up into third by the time his rival finally pitted, having passed Hernandez and taken advantage of di Grassi also stopping for tyres. Piquet changed all four wheels and, despite the long run to the pit exit from his box, still managed to emerge before Hamilton homed into view around turn one.

Behind the Briton, the order was beginning to settle down, with Premat finally moving back into third after Hernandez and Ferdinando Monfardini relinquished their artificially lofty positions. Glock assumed fourth, ahead of di Grassi - enjoying his best run of the year despite Viso's earlier assault - Carroll, Andreas Zuber and Alex Negrao. There were still ten laps to run, but very little was to happen amongst the points positions before the chequer waved.

Instead, attention switched to some more traditional GP2 action further down the field - and involving Lopez, whose afternoon continued to degenerate when his Super Nova Dallara failed to get away cleanly after its pit-stop. From second on the grid, the Argentine found himself battling for twelfth in a group that also included both Arden cars. Lopez showed that he had not lost the ability to pass by claiming the scalps of Luca Filippi and Michael Ammermuller - the latter after a brush with the rear wheel of the German's car - but the result will have done little to improve his lot this season.

The battle for the lead was eventually ended when Piquet took a massive 1.3secs out of the chasing Hamilton on lap 26. The gap had been hovering around ten seconds for a while, but the Brazilian turned up the wick at the same time as his rival opted to conserve his equipment and settle for second. With Premat covering his rear, Hamilton had little to fear in terms of threat from behind, and decided that another small leak to Piquet was acceptable - or at least better than throwing his entire advantage away in fruitless pursuit of the Brazilian.

Piquet, meanwhile, continued to push for a few laps more, having ensured himself of the extra point for fastest time of the race on lap 26, eventually coming home some 17secs clear of the chasing Hamilton, himself six seconds clear of Premat, who had Glock all over the rear of the ART car at the flag. The Frenchman's doggedness was enough to ensure ART of a second successive teams' title, however, with Piquet Sport - now back into second place - too far adrift to take the battle to Monza.

di Grassi secured his best result of the year in fifth, having kept the grieving Carroll at bay in the closing stages, while Zuber claimed only his second points finish of the year, despite having seemingly been a top ten regular in almost every race. Piquet's team-mate Negrao took the final point, ensuring the family team of a second pole of the weekend come Sunday morning.

The Brazilian will hope to finally convert a front row spot in the sprint event into something meaningful in the race and, with all eyes likely to be on row four - where Hamilton and Piquet will line up alongside each other - the pressure may be sufficiently eased for him not to stall. The points leader, meanwhile, will hold the initial advantage of starting ahead of his rival, but will be on the outside line heading into turn one....

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