Fabio Leimer claimed his first GP2 feature race victory with a dominant drive in Abu Dhabi.
The Swiss driver, who switched from Rapax to Racing Engineering for this weekend, converted pole position into the lead at the start, establishing an advantage of almost two seconds by the end of the first lap.
From there, Leimer, who has two GP2 sprint race wins to his name, expertly controlled the gap to nearest rival Luiz Razia (AirAsia). Razia's only hope of attacking came around the mandatory stops, but Leimer was able to wait until two laps after the Brazilian had pitted before pulling in himself, maintaining his lead in the process. He re-emerged second behind Addax's Jolyon Palmer and retook the lead when the British driver pitted.
After the pit stops, Leimer held the gap to Razia at around the five second mark, stretching his advantage to 6.9sec in the final laps.
Palmer, who started fifth, held on to take third place, comfortably his best result in GP2, after holding off pressure from iSport's Marcus Ericsson in the closing stages. Palmer had climbed to third at the start after Rapax driver Dani Clos, who had to leave room for the fast-starting Razia on the inside of the corner, clipped Josef Kral (Aden), who was attempting to go around the outside of both, into a spin at Turn 1.
With Clos retiring after recovering to the pits and Kral out of contention, Coloni driver Kevin Ceccon finished a strong fifth ahead of best rookie Tom Dillmann (iSport). He narrowly held off the challenge of fellow GP2 newcomer Antonio Felix da Costa, driving for Ocean Racing Technology.
GP3 runner-up James Calado claimed the all-important eighth position, earning reversed grid pole for tomorrow's sprint race. The ART driver had to fight hard to earn it, climbing from 11th on the grid to pass Stefano Coletti (Coloni) for eighth with nine laps to go and keeping Nathanael Berthon (Racing Engineering) at arm's length in the closing stages.
Esteban Gutierrez (ART), favourite heading into the weekend, finished 21st after a lengthy pitstop to replace his rear wing, which sustained damage when he was hit by Coletti on the opening lap, while Max Chilton (Carlin) crashed out of seventh early on.