Nico Hulkenberg cruised to victory in today's GP2 Series feature race at the Algarve circuit, and in the process secured the 2009 teams' championship for ART.
An aggressive start from third on the grid helped the German move up to second behind polesitter Vitaly Petrov (Addax) on the run into the first corner, and while he was unable to find a way past during the dozen laps that followed, the decision to pit a lap earlier paid off instead.
Emerging from the pitlane with a clear track in front of him, Hulkenberg never looked in danger and not even a couple of restarts after safety car periods could stop him from crossing the line with an advantage of almost 10 seconds.
Luca Filippi took second place - his best result since Turkey, and more remarkably, his first classified finish since the Valencia feature race. The Super Nova driver started from 13th, and opted for a super-early stop in the hope of making up some early ground. It worked, but glazed brakes during the middle of the race and fading rear tires towards the end brought him within the sights of Racing Engineering's Lucas di Grassi, who tried everything in the book to get past but was thwarted by just 0.2sec in the end. Petrov in fourth underlined how close things were by crossing the line 0.4sec later.
Roldan Rodriguez's efforts at avoiding trouble were rewarded with fifth for Piquet, while DPR's Michael Herck earned his best result of the season with sixth. The Romainian was forced to work hard for his points too, having spent the middle stint of the race caught up in a fierce midfield battle where as many as nine cars covered by only four seconds were battling for the minor points positions.
A late charge from Kamui Kobayashi got the DAMS driver up to seventh with Addax's Davide Valsecchi picking up eighth and pole for the sprint race.
The frantic scrap among the middle order was not without its casualties. Pastor Maldonado (ART) had been on track for point for most of the race but flat-spotted his tires badly in the process and gradually dropped through the field, and Ocean's Alvaro Parente and Arden's Sergio Perez managed to eliminate each other while disputing ninth.
Racing Engineering's Dani Clos was also on target for points but lost a lot of time to a dramatic spin on the hill down to the hairpin, while Edoardo Mortara (Arden) was a first-lap casualty after clashing with Javier Villa (Super Nova) at Turn 2. The Italian's sole consolation could come from the fact that he was not the first retirement; an unfortunate distinction that DPR's Johnny Cecotto earned when he managed to crash while exiting the pits to join the dummy grid.