Jolyon Palmer won a stunning GP2 Series feature race in Singapore, overcoming Carlin teammate Felipe Nasr in the closing stages as high tire degradation made for a thrilling spectacle.
After making a poor start from pole position, as his anti-stall kicked in, Palmer watched Nasr, Stephane Richelmi (DAMS) and Fabio Leimer (Racing Engineering) jump ahead of him on the run to Turn 1.
ART's James Calado further demoted him, but Palmer managed to regain positions from Richelmi and Calado on a frantic opening lap to run third. That set the tone for the race, as Palmer charged past Leimer for second at Turn 7 on lap four.
At this point Nasr was up the road by 5.2sec, but Palmer cut that gap to 3.6sec by the time Nasr stopped for fresh soft-compound rear tires on lap 10.
Palmer stayed out longer, but lost time to Nasr at this point, so when he stopped three laps later, he rejoined over 10sec behind the Brazilian. The gap between them went out to as much as 13.4sec by lap 15, but Palmer then rattled in a sequence of fastest laps having sensibly nursed his fresh rear tires in his early laps on them.
As the race entered its closing stages, it was clear that by stopping earlier Nasr was suffering with tire degradation much more than Palmer. This was exacerbated by Nasr badly flatspotting his front-right tire with seven laps to go.
After a thrilling chase, during which he was warned "your pace is too hot!" over the radio, Palmer caught and passed Nasr with three laps to go, using his superior traction along the Raffles Boulevard. Nasr tried to defend, but only succeeded in damaging his tire even more with a massive lock-up into Turn 7.
Nasr trailed home over 13sec behind Palmer at the finish, as he had to nurse his vibrating car home, admitting that "the front tires were destroyed."
Calado gained positions in the pit stop cycle, and clung on to third place despite a late attack from points leader Leimer. But Leimer lost his fourth place on the final lap, as Richelmi mugged him, even though they had pitted on the same lap and had the same tire life.
Leimer's title rival Sam Bird suffered a poor start and a slow pit stop, but battled back to take reversed-grid pole for Sunday's sprint race. The gap between them is now out to 12 points, with Nasr moving up to third in the title race.
Stefano Coletti again failed to score, and finished down in 12th.
Tom Dillmann and Marcus Ericsson finished ahead of Bird in sixth and seventh, respectively, with Jon Lancaster and Dani Clos rounding out the point scorers.
With many drivers going for a soft/soft tire strategy, Sunday's sprint race will mean they will have to re-use tires. Those who started on the super-soft, including Leimer and Bird, should have a big advantage as they will have fresh soft rubber all around.
Results - 28 laps:
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Jolyon Palmer Carlin 57m14.130s
2. Felipe Nasr Carlin +13.095s
3. James Calado ART +25.126s
4. Stephane Richelmi DAMS +25.713s
5. Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering +28.296s
6. Tom Dillmann Russian Time +38.577s
7. Marcus Ericsson DAMS +45.448s
8. Sam Bird Russian Time +45.685s
9. Jon Lancaster Hilmer +51.981s
10. Dani Clos MP +56.906s
11. Mitch Evans Arden +57.227s
12. Stefano Coletti Rapax +1m04.741s
13. Daniel Abt ART +1m05.265s
14. Johnny Cecotto Jr Arden +1m19.683s
15. Jake Rosenzweig Addax +1m33.492s
16. Simon Trummer Rapax +1m43.894s
17. Daniel de Jong MP +1m52.806s
18. Rene Binder Lazarus +1m53.422s
19. Sergio Canamasas Caterham +2m06.253s
20. Rio Haryanto Addax +1 lap
21. Gianmarco Raimondo Trident +1 lap
22. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Hilmer +1 lap
Alexander Rossi Caterham 23 laps
Vittorio Ghirelli Lazarus 9 laps
Nathanael Berthon Trident 7 laps
Julian Leal Racing Engineering 7 laps