Romain Grosjean started his GP2 career in the best possible way with a dominant victory in the Asia Series opener at Dubai Autodrome on Friday afternoon.
The reigning Formula Three Euro Series champion led from start to finish after streaking away at the head of the field. The start was controversial, with the red lights only showing for a fraction of a second before they went out and the race begun.
Grosjean (ART Grand Prix) opened a 1.7 seconds lead on the opening lap, as Andy Soucek (DPR) passed Bruno Senna (iSport) at the hairpin on the opening lap. Senna briefly battled his way back ahead, but Soucek made another tough move stick. All this allowed Grosjean to escape.
Luca Filippi (Meritus) jumped ahead of Karun Chandhok (iSport) off the startline, and the Indian became stuck behind the Italian. Chandhok was the first of the leaders to pit, on lap 12, but then spun at Turn 1 as he rejoined on cold tyres, losing valuable time and places.
Senna, who was likewise stuck behind Soucek, pitted three laps later. His stop was slow, however, so when Soucek pitted a lap later, he rejoined well ahead of Bruno.
Grosjean, meanwhile, rattled off his stop without problem. He turned a five-second lead over Soucek into over 12 seconds by the time Senna caught and finally found a way past the Spaniard.
Senna did it in style, zapping around the outside of Soucek at the hairpin when he covered an inside lunge that never came.
But it was too late to do anything about Grosjean, who motored to a 12.3-second victory. Senna settled for second, with fastest lap, with Soucek happy with another GP2 podium finish.
Adrian Valles (FMS) was best of the rest, closing right up on Soucek in the closing stages when the latter caught a kerb on the exit of a corner, and his car's engine revs got stuck on the rev limiter. But Soucek held him at bay, with Luca Filippi (Meritus) coming home close behind in fifth.
Filippi was livid with Jason Tahinci (BCN), who mistakenly held him up when he thought he was racing for position. Filippi's teammate, Hiroki Yoshimoto, made it a great day for the Asian newcomer team in sixth place.
Sebastien Buemi (Arden) finished seventh, ahead of Chandhok, who spun again when battling with Yoshimoto. The Indian has been suffering with a heavy cold all weekend, and said he "coughed his way through the second half of the race". He will start tomorrow's reverse grid race from pole position.
Classified: Pos Driver Team Time 1. Grosjean ART Grand Prix 59:25.309 2. Senna iSport International + 12.358 3. Soucek DPR + 17.347 4. Valles FMS International + 17.768 5. Filippi Qi-Meritus Mahara + 18.309 6. Yoshimoto Qi-Meritus Mahara + 28.209 7. Buemi Trust Team Arden + 30.970 8. Chandhok iSport International + 36.568 9. Fauzy Super Nova Racing + 40.767 10. Valerio Durango + 46.218 11. Pavlovic BCN Competicion + 59.581 12. D'ambrosio Dams + 60.029 13. Nunes Campos Team + 62.146 14. Kobayashi Dams + 62.634 15. Schlegelmilch Trident Racing + 69.902 16. Jelley ART Grand Prix + 84.834 17. Puglisi Piquet Sports + 1 lap 18. Valsecchi Durango + 1 lap 19. Khan Trust Team Arden + 1 lap 20. Tahinci BCN Competicion + 1 lap 21. Bonanomi Piquet Sports + 1 lap 22. Ebrahim DPR + 2 laps 23. Tung Trident Racing + 2 laps Not classified: Driver Team Laps Herck FMS International 10 Bakkerud Super Nova Racing 6 Petrov Campos Team 0 Fastest lap: Senna, 1:22.462 on lap 40