Pastor Maldonado has given his GP2 title hopes a further boost with victory in a bizarre GP2 feature race at Valencia.
The Rapax driver got past ART's Jules Bianchi at the start to go into the first corner in second place behind polesitter Sergio Perez, but a series of accidents behind him eliminated nearly half the field in the first four corners.
A safety car was brought out while the mess was cleaned up and just 13 of the 24 cars were still on the track for the restart three laps later, although Ocean's Fabio Leimer and Trident's Adrian Zaugg were also able to rejoin after pitting for repairs.
But there was more drama to come before the race returned to green. Maldonado went wide at the final corner and Bianchi, taking advantage of the fact that the safety car line is before the start-finish line, was able to take the Venezuelan by surprise and pass him for second.
Maldonado reclaimed the position and made a successful move on Perez for the lead not long afterward, but Davide Valsecchi's attempt to follow him through resulted in contact with Perez that spun the Addax car and left the Mexican at the back of the field. Valsecchi was later handed a drive-through penalty for his part in the incident. Maldonado retained his lead over Bianchi through the pit stops and after an intial challenge from the Frenchman, he gradually pulled away to secure the win by 8.2sec.
Bianchi followed him for second and Sam Bird made it an ART 2-3 by finishing third; the Brit having started from 10th on the grid.
Giedo van der Garde (Addax) and Dani Clos (Racing Engineering) had an uneventful run to fourth and fifth, while Charles Pic (Arden), Marcus Ericsson (Super Nova) and Michael Herck (DPR) chased each other around to complete the points. It was a particularly welcome result for Ericsson, whose efforts finally helped Super Nova to get its first points of the year. There was one more bit of drama awaiting Perez when he went to leave the pits and found Coloni's Alberto Valero pulling out ahead of him with the rear jack still attached.
It flew off at Turn 4, fortunately bouncing out of Perez's path and instead wiping out a TV camera mounted on the catch fencing. It is one of several incidents scheduled for a post-race investigation by the stewards.
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Pastor Maldonado Rapax 56m55.681s
2. Jules Bianchi ART + 8.296s
3. Sam Bird ART + 16.094s
4. Giedo van der Garde Barwa Addax + 16.788s
5. Dani Clos Racing Engineering + 38.974s
6. Charles Pic Arden + 42.415s
7. Marcus Ericsson Super Nova + 42.914s
8. Michael Herck DPR + 43.722s
9. Alberto Valerio Coloni + 48.508s
10. Davide Valsecchi iSport + 50.411s
11. Sergio Perez Barwa Addax + 51.308s
12. Christian Vietoris Racing Engineering + 55.338s
13. Vladimir Arabadjiev Coloni + 1 lap
14. Adrian Zaugg Trident + 1 lap
Fabio Leimer Ocean 25 laps
Rodolfo Gonzalez Arden 0 laps
Josef Kral Super Nova 0 laps
Luiz Razia Rapax 0 laps
Giacomo Ricci DPR 0 laps
Ho-Pin Tung DAMS 0 laps
Jerome D'Ambrosio DAMS 0 laps
Johnny Cecotto Trident 0 laps
Oliver Turvey iSport 0 laps