Nicolas Lapierre cruised to victory in the GP2 race at Spa-Francorchamps in a manner that made you wonder why he hasn’t been doing it all year.
In the fight for the championship Lucas di Grassi finished third but title rival Timo Glock was 17th after yet more reliability problems for iSport.
Luca Filippi was second for Super Nova after spending much of the race defending his position from Mike Conway.
Somehow the drivers avoided an enormous crash at the start as a group of drivers near the front of the field failed to get away. They included championship leader Glock and his iSport team mate Andreas Zuber, plus Bruno Senna, Kazuki Nakajima and Kohei Hirate.
Somehow the rest of the field dodged all five, who were wheeled into the pits to be started.
Benefitting from Senna’s problems di Grassi moved into second at the start as Filippi ran wide. Carroll also got ahead of Filippi into third.
A close battle developed behind the top four which saw Javier Villa emerge in fifth ahead of Vitaly Petrov, Alexandre Negrao and Sebastien Buemi.
Mike Conway ducked into the pits from ninth at the first opportunity on lap three. He was followed in by Ricardo Risatti, but the Trident team failed to attach the Argentine’s left rear wheel correctly, forcing him to limp back to the pits where it finally came free.
Lapierre had a loose moment in Fagnes and suddenly di Grassi was all over him. The Frenchman calmly kept his rival behind while FMS wisely brought Adam Carroll into the pits from third to prevent him from losing time. He emerged behind Filippi, who had already pitted from fourth.
Lapierre and di Grassi pitted together on lap eight and came out in the same order just ahead of Filippi and Conway. But the pair that had already pitted used the benefit of their warmer tyres to pass di Grassi, relegating the Brazilian to an effective fourth.
Di Grassi however dropped back and left Carroll and Filippi to battle between themselves.
On lap 12 Lapierre caught and passed Borja Garcia, the last remaining driver not to have pitted for tyres, taking the lead off the Durango driver. Three laps later Villa nipped past Conway for fifth but couldn’t catch di Grassi.
The ART driver appeared to have resigned himself to finishing off the podium but was gifted third place on lap 19 when Carroll took too much of the second kerb at Pouhon and clattered the barrier.
Lapierre took a commanding win to add to his sprint race victory at Bahrain – yet was only the third time he had scored points since that race, the second of the season.
Filippi held on to second ahead of di Grassi, who claimed six crucial championship points for third. Title rival Timo Glock took a point for fastest lap but finished 17th and faces a stiff challenge to score points tomorrow. His lead in the title has been cut to six points.
Villa was fourth from 14th on the grid, underlining what the Spaniard can achieve when he qualifies even reasonably well, and looking in good shape for tomorrow’s sprint race.
Conway, fifth, scored his first points since the Nurburgring, ahead of Andy Soucek and Karun Chandhok. The final point for eighth – and pole position for tomorrow’s race – went to BCN’s Ho Pin Tung.
Photo: Charles Coates / GP2 Media Service