Marcus Ericsson got his first GP2 Series win for more than two years in a feature race at Spa-Francorchamps that was disrupted by a lengthy red flag period following a heavy crash for Nigel Melker.
When the race began, pole-sitter Rio Haryanto was challenged by third-place starter Esteban Gutierrez and forced the Mexican onto the grass. Haryanto retained the lead, with James Calado keeping second ahead of Gutierrez, before Ericsson jumped both of them to take second place.
That battle between Lotus GP pair Calado and Gutierrez continued, with Gutierrez edging ahead into Eau Rouge on the following lap – but only under yellow flags which were being waved after Rodolfo Gonzalez had crashed there on the opening lap.
Up front Ericsson passed Haryanto for the lead after the Indonesian was slow exiting Radillon, where Melker then crashed heavily into the tyre barriers after losing control of his car. The safety car collected the field, with Gutierrez slowing to let Calado back past for third place.
At the end of lap six, much of the field came into the pits with Haryanto getting a quicker stop than Ericsson to get back ahead of the Swede. However, he then ruined his chances of a maiden victory by spinning and stalling at Les Combes under the safety car.
On lap seven the decision was taken to red flag the race to allow the barriers to be repaired, as Melker was taken to hospital.
Once those repairs were made, the race was resumed behind the safety car but quickly aborted due to the lack of a medical helicopter. The race finally got going again around an hour after it had been restarted, with 17 of the 25 laps remaining.
Giedo van der Garde, Stephane Richelmi, Simon Trummer and Stefano Coletti led having not yet made their mandatory pitstop. Richelmi was the last of those to stop with three laps to go and when he did, Ericsson re-took the lead.
After two hours had elapsed, he won the race to claim his second GP2 victory and his first since Valencia 2010. He finished 11 seconds ahead of Calado, who took longer to clear to the slower car of Trummer. Davide Valsecchi crossed the line in third to tie for the points lead with Luiz Razia, but could yet lose that after an unsafe release from his pitstop.
Josef Kral finally got his first points of 2012 with fourth place ahead of van der Garde. Razia had started 18th after a nightmare in qualifying but fought his way back through and could have finished fifth had he not been passed by the freshly-rubbered van der Garde at the end.
Julian Leal got his best GP2 result in seventh, and would have been joined on the front row for Sunday’s sprint race by Trident Racing teammate Richelmi had the Monegasque driver not got too much wheel-spin coming out of the final corner and been passed by Felipe Nasr.
Haryanto got going again after his early mishap and passed a number of cars on his way to tenth. Gutierrez was handed a drive-through penalty for his yellow flag misdemeanour despite handing the place back to Calado, but came through to finish 11th. Max Chilton was ninth with a few laps to go but struggled with his tyres at the end and was 12th.
Daniel de Jong was next, ahead of Nathanael Berthon who survived a scary clash with Sergio Canamasas on the bend on the run down to Eau Rouge, when Canamasas squeezed the Frenchman up against the wall. The damage from the contact forced Canamasas into retirement.
Fabio Onidi, Johnny Cecotto, Ricardo Teixeira and debutant Rene Binder completed the finishers. Coletti retired after a collision at the Bus Stop with Victor Guerin, which also put the Brazilian out of the race. Jolyon Palmer’s race ended after contact with Luiz Razia at La Source, while Fabio Leimer spun out after contact at Les Combes on the opening lap.
The sprint race takes place at 09:35 BST on Sunday.