Davide Valsecchi opened the GP2 Asia season with a hard-earned victory over fellow category veteran Luca Filippi in Abu Dhabi, while America's Alexander Rossi took an impressive fourth place in his GP2 debut.
iSport driver Valsecchi had to come from behind to beat the Italian, finally taking the lead with a spectacular move in the closing stages and then pulling away again following a late safety car to win by five seconds.
Polesitter Valsecchi had initially lost his lead to ART's impressive rookie Sam Bird off the line, but was able to pass the Formula 3 graduate as they swept down the back straight for the first time.
Super Nova's James Jakes and Meritus driver Filippi also overtook Bird soon afterward, with Filippi taking second from Jakes three laps in. Filippi then ran further than Valsecchi prior to his mandatory pit stop and emerged with the lead, getting his stop completed just in time as a collision between Luiz Razia (Addax) and Christian Vietoris (DAMS) left debris on the track and brought out the first safety car.
Valsecchi put pressure on Filippi later in the race and finally won the lead battle by muscling through after a very close side by side dice through the Turn 11, 12, 13 and 14 complex. He briefly came under threat when Trident driver Plamen Kralev's spin prompted the safety car again, but had the pace to pull away and secure the win.
Filippi fended off Jakes to retain second place, with Ocean Racing's Rossi (pictured) the top rookie in fourth place, followed by fellow newcomers Josef Kral (Super Nova) and Vietoris. Rossi and Kral's former Formula Master rival Fabio Leimer was unable to capitalize on his excellent third on the grid as his Ocean car stalled before the formation lap. Fifth place qualifier Roldan Rodriguez (Coloni) left another gap when he falled to get off the line at the start.
Bird had been on course for fourth until he retired on the penultimate lap with brake problems, which meant his countryman Oliver Turvey moved up to eighth in the second iSport car and will therefore start from reverse grid pole for tomorrow's sprint race, alongside Trident's Johnny Cecotto.
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Davide Valsecchi iSport 1h07m49.810s
2. Luca Filippi Meritus + 4.881s
3. James Jakes Super Nova + 6.174s
4. Alexander Rossi Ocean + 7.182s
5. Josef Kral Super Nova + 8.220s
6. Christian Vietoris DAMS + 13.300s
7. Johnny Cecotto Trident + 15.460s
8. Oliver Turvey iSport + 16.223s
9. Edoardo Piscopo DAMS + 16.715s
10. Roldan Rodriguez Coloni + 16.879s
11. Marcus Ericsson ART + 21.686s
12. Will Bratt Coloni + 22.539s
13. Michael Herck DPR + 22.881s
14. Rodolfo Gonzalez Arden + 23.403s
15. Daniel Zampieri Piquet + 23.786s
16. Max Chilton Addax + 25.131s
17. Fabio Leimer Ocean + 30.019s
18. Sam Bird ART + 2 laps
Charles Pic Arden 28 laps
Vlado Arabadjiev Piquet 25 laps
Plamen Kralev Trident 24 laps
Luiz Razia Addax 12 laps
Giacomo Ricci DPR 8 laps
Diego Nunes Meritus 0 laps