Ferrari Formula 1 junior driver Jules Bianchi claimed a vital maiden GP2 win to start his Asia series campaign in perfect style.
Bianchi beat polesitter Romain Grosjean off the line at the start of the Abu Dhabi evening race, and withstood intense pressure from his fellow Frenchman throughout the race.
Grosjean's DAMS team brought him in for his mandatory stop a lap earlier than Bianchi's ART squad, and what could have been an inspired decision fell flat when Grosjean was slow away, which condemned him to following the incoming Max Chilton down the pitlane.
Both Charles Pic and Fabio Leimer left their stops until late as fears over the longevity of the Pirelli tyres proved unfounded, but once they finally pitted Bianchi and Grosjean had a straight fight to the flag.
A series of fastest laps from Bianchi broke Grosjean's resolve and his victory was secured. Davide Valsecchi had a quiet run to third, a brilliant return for the AirAsia team on its debut.
iSport's Marcus Ericsson stole fourth from Addax's Giedo van der Garde on the final lap of a race than ran to time rather than its full distance due to a huge accident at the start. Dani Clos stalled on the line and his Racing Engineering car was hit at full pelt by AirAsia's Luis Razia, who was briefly launched into the air. Pal Varhaug (DAMS) was also eliminated in the chaos, from which all three drivers emerged unscathed.
Josef Kral was sixth for Arden, Sam Bird (iSport) seventh and Chilton (Carlin) eighth, which gave him reversed-grid pole for tomorrow. However, he passed Trident driver Stefano Coletti for the place by cutting the chicane so could well be penalised.
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Jules Bianchi ART 1h22m04.643s 2. Romain Grosjean DAMS + 6.681s 3. Davide Valsecchi AirAsia + 12.794s 4. Marcus Ericsson iSport + 14.001s 5. Giedo van der Garde Addax + 15.198s 6. Josef Kral Arden + 20.601s 7. Sam Bird iSport + 24.412s 8. Max Chilton Carlin + 31.866s 9. Stefano Coletti Trident + 36.809s 10. Charles Pic Addax + 37.411s 11. Fabio Leimer Rapax + 40.252s 12. Rodolfo Gonzalez Trident + 48.587s 13. Michael Herck Coloni + 59.963s 14. Jolyon Palmer Arden + 1m07.206s 15. Johnny Cecotto Super Nova + 1m08.136s 16. Andrea Caldarelli Ocean + 1m37.978s Retirements: James Jakes Coloni 32 laps Oliver Turvey Ocean 32 laps Nathanael Berthon Racing Engineering 24 laps Julian Leal Rapax 19 laps Fairuz Fauzy Super Nova 19 laps Esteban Gutierrez ART 18 laps Mikhail Aleshin Carlin 10 laps Dani Clos Racing Engineering 0 laps Luiz Razia AirAsia 0 laps Pal Varhaug DAMS 0 laps