That ended a relatively long spell at the top for Kevin Magnussen, who had briefly led a Carlin 1-2 with team-mate Will Stevens when there was around 15 of the 60 minutes remaining.
Stevens had to make do with eighth as several drivers improved in the final quarter of an hour, and morning pacesetter da Costa nearly repeated his trick by jumping up the order in the final couple of minutes.
However, this time he could only go third, leaving Bianchi and Magnussen in the top two places.
Marco Sorensen was just ahead of title contender Sam Bird as they took fourth and fifth, while da Costa's team-mate Alexander Rossi made sure both Arden Caterham drivers were in the top six.
The 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 season will be notable for being the last with the French company's backing but also produced a worthy champion in Oliver Rowland. PETER MILLS evaluates this year's crop of drivers
Last year's field was extraordinary and hard to match, but the Formula Renault 3.5 grid will still have plenty of talent this season. Glenn Freeman runs through the field ahead of this weekend's season opener
Landing the Fortec seat that took rising star Robin Frijns to the 2012 FR3.5 title was already a good sign for Stoffel Vandoorne. Then McLaren took him under its wing. Peter Mills tells Vandoorne's story so far