Antonio Giovinazzi wins wild first GP2 race in Baku

Antonio Giovinazzi claimed his maiden GP2 victory by winning a wild first race on the Baku street track

Antonio Giovinazzi wins wild first GP2 race in Baku

The Italian also gave Prema its own maiden GP2 win in a race of attrition disrupted by four safety car periods.

Giovinazzi dropped back with a poor start from pole before a multi-car accident at Turn 1, which was triggered by Pierre Gasly tapping Norman Nato into a spin after the championship leader had squeezed the Frenchman against the inside barriers.

As Gasly exited the corner slowly, Sergio Canamasas drove into the back of the Prema car and Alex Lynn, Nicolas Latifi and Marvin Kirchhofer were all eliminated in the chaos that followed, sidelining the entire DAMS and Carlin teams.

Nobuhara Matsushita had seized first place and led Raffaele Marciello while the second ART driver, Sergey Sirotkin fell from third to seventh off the line.

When the race resumed on lap three after a safety car, Marciello blasted by Matsushita into the lead at the first corner but the Japanese driver was able to repay the favour a lap later by using the immense slipstream on Baku's 1.4-mile main straight.

Marciello had just retaken the lead at Turn 3 on lap six when the safety car reappeared as Philo Paz Armand crashed and the field piled into the pits to make their mandatory stops.

A further safety car followed on lap nine of the planned 29 when Arthur Pic squeezed Artem Markelov into the barriers at Turn 5, which eliminated the Rapax driver on the spot and caused damage that forced the Russian out a few corners later.

With just 14 cars still left as the safety car peeled off for the third time, Marciello sprinted clear while Matsushita went wide attempting to pass the out-of-pit-sequence Nabil Jeffri at Turn 1 and fell to fifth as MP Motorsport's Oliver Rowland moved into second by passing both cars in a brave inside move.

Giovinazzi had recovered to run third by lap 12, which became second when he passed Rowland two laps later using DRS.

While Rowland told his team he was "playing the long game", Giovinazzi rapidly caught Marciello for the lead and passed the Russian Time driver at the first opportunity using DRS at the start of lap 18.

The Italian had quickly pulled out a 2.1s lead when the safety car was called out for the final time because Nato had sent a late lunge up the inside of his Racing Engineering team-mate Jordan King as they fought over 12th and was knocked out of the race when the unsighted British driver squeezed him into the Turn 3 barrier.

The safety car remained out for a lengthy five-lap stint as Nato's car was hauled away and the race was therefore capped to an hour because of the various interruptions.

A two-lap sprint finished off proceedings and Giovinazzi survived a huge lock up at Turn 1 to hold on and win.

Sirotkin, who had battled past Matsushita and Rowland, stole second place from Marciello on the run to the line in a thrilling climax.

Rowland successfully defended fourth from Mitch Evans in the closing laps, while Matsushita came home sixth in front of Sean Gelael and Daniel de Jong, who will start Sunday's sprint race from pole position.

RESULTS - 26 LAPS:

Pos Driver Team Gap
1 Antonio Giovinazzi Prema Racing 1h03m05.420s
2 Sergey Sirotkin ART Grand Prix 1.233s
3 Raffaele Marciello RUSSIAN TIME 1.343s
4 Oliver Rowland MP Motorsport 2.141s
5 Mitch Evans Pertamina Campos Racing 2.628s
6 Nobuharu Matsushita ART Grand Prix 3.110s
7 Sean Gelael Pertamina Campos Racing 5.808s
8 Daniel de Jong MP Motorsport 6.663s
9 Luca Ghiotto Trident 7.058s
10 Gustav Malja Rapax 7.595s
11 Jimmy Eriksson Arden International 2 Laps
12 Jordan King Racing Engineering Collision
- Norman Nato Racing Engineering Collision
- Nabil Jeffri Arden International Retirement
- Arthur Pic Rapax Retirement
- Artem Markelov RUSSIAN TIME Retirement
- Philo Paz Armand Trident Retirement
- Pierre Gasly Prema Racing Collision
- Alex Lynn DAMS Collision
- Nicholas Latifi DAMS Collision
- Sergio Canamasas Carlin Collision
- Marvin Kirchhofer Carlin Collision

RACE TWO GRID

Pos Driver Team
1 Daniel de Jong MP Motorsport
2 Sean Gelael Pertamina Campos Racing
3 Nobuharu Matsushita ART Grand Prix
4 Mitch Evans Pertamina Campos Racing
5 Oliver Rowland MP Motorsport
6 Raffaele Marciello RUSSIAN TIME
7 Sergey Sirotkin ART Grand Prix
8 Antonio Giovinazzi Prema Racing
9 Luca Ghiotto Trident
10 Gustav Malja Rapax
11 Jimmy Eriksson Arden International
12 Jordan King Racing Engineering
13 Norman Nato Racing Engineering
14 Nabil Jeffri Arden International
15 Artem Markelov RUSSIAN TIME
16 Philo Paz Armand Trident
17 Marvin Kirchhofer Carlin
18 Pierre Gasly Prema Racing
19 Sergio Canamasas Carlin
20 Arthur Pic Rapax
21 Alex Lynn DAMS
22 Nicholas Latifi DAMS

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Baku GP2: Rookie Antonio Giovinazzi takes pole for Prema

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