Luca Filippi put the rest of the GP2 field to shame by winning on his first start for a year in the feature race at Monza and repeating his home win from 12 months ago.
Starting from third, the Italian nearly took the lead at the start but braked a little too late into the first corner and ran across the inside of the chicane before giving up the place to polesitter Max Chilton. Front-row starter Giedo van der Garde struggled to get away from the line and then again had difficulty accelerating out of the chicane and retired.
Filippi stopped early, and although Chilton rejoined ahead of him a few laps later, Filippi made the pass at Ascari soon afterwards. He assumed the lead once everyone had stopped and took a four second victory.
Asked on the podium how it felt to win after a year away, an emotional Filippi said: “You just said it’s one year, but it feels like yesterday. Or maybe today. I actually think that time just stopped. Now is an amazing moment for me. Sometimes my career restarts and sometimes my career is finished, but I always believed, and now more than ever.
“The Coloni family always believed in me and always believed in Italian drivers, because we are here and we are fast and we can prove it. Thanks to them, because if I don’t have a chance I can’t prove it. So they gave me a chance and I gave them a return. To win here in front of the Italian people, it’s amazing.”
Chilton lacked the pacesetting speed he showed in practice and qualifying and was passed by Johnny Cecotto and Marcus Ericsson before the end of the race. A grid penalty forced Cecotto to start down in eighth but got up to fifth on the first lap. He stayed out in the lead before making his pitstop, rejoining in third before taking second from Chilton.
“Yeah, [the strategy] really paid off,” said Cecotto afterwards. “I had not an amazing start but it was quite good and I managed to pass at the first corner. In the first two laps I was quicker than Valsecchi but he didn’t really want to let me through. Then he went in for his pitstop and I started to push like crazy. The guys were great in the pitstop and I came out third and managed to overtake Chilton for second place.”
Ericsson ran third in the early laps, and although he dropped behind Cecotto in the stops he was still able to finish on the podium.
“It was another good race for me,” said the Swede. “Obviously Spa was a very good weekend for me to win there and to come to Monza which is one of the best tracks to race on and finish on the podium is great.”
Fabio Leimer finished just behind Chilton in fifth, having escaped contact with another driver at the second chicane on two different occasions. The first came after his pitstop, clashing with championship contender Luiz Razia, who was forced to retire. A few laps later he had contact with another Brazilian, this time Felipe Nasr, who had perhaps ambitiously tried to turn in ahead of the Swiss driver and ended up spinning backwards over the humps in the runoff area and also retiring.
Razia’s title rival Davide Valsecchi was fourth early on but lost pace after his stop, losing out to Cecotto and also dropping behind Leimer when he outbraked himself at the second chicane and generously lifting off to hand the position to Leimer. Sixth was still enough to allow Valsecchi to move ahead of Razia in the standings with three races to go.
Jolyon Palmer and Esteban Gutierrez twice ran side-by-side through the Curva Grande with the Briton eventually coming out on top to take seventh. Stefano Coletti also got by Gutierrez to take eighth place and the reverse grid pole for the sprint race, a happy debut with Rapax for the Monegasque driver after making way for Filippi at Coloni following a difficult campaign.
Julian Leal took the final point in tenth thanks to staying out longer before making his stop. James Calado continued to suffer from a mysterious lack of pace, dropping to 12th behind Nigel Melker at the end. The Dutchman led a number of laps in the middle of the race as he opted for a later stop.
The sprint race takes place at 9:35 BST on Sunday.