iSport's Giedo van der Garde saw off the challenge of Vitaly Petrov, and the weather, to record the third victory of his GP2 debut season.
The rain that had been forecast to fall at some point during the weekend arrived with a vengeance shortly before the race began, with the downpour forcing the start of the race to be put back 40 minutes. While, during the delay the conditions improved it was still deemed necessary to start the race behind the safety car.
However, the track proved to be treacherous even at the relatively low speeds as Alberto Valerio found himself in the gravel at the final corner without even completing a lap.
And when the safety car finally pulled in after five laps Valerio was quickly joined on the retirement list by a pair of high profile names. First Sergio Perez became the first, and ultimately only, victim of Monza's chicanes.
As the Safety Car came in Sergio Perez took advantage of a Nico Hulkenburg mistake to take third, before spearing off coming into the Rettifilo, spinning infront of Hulkenburg and into the outside wall. “I hit a puddle under braking,” said the Mexican “after that I was a passenger”. Then Pastor Maldonado took a similar trip to Valerio into the Parabolica tyre barriers.
Up front Hulkenburg's title rival Vitaly Petrov, despite the flurry of activity behind him, had taken the lead from his pole position from van der Garde, reportedly with early engine concerns.
It was now, as the track began to dry the lead teams entered a game of pit stop chicken. Everyone had to take compulsory pitstops, and with the changing conditions and Monza's long pit lane who made the right decision and when was going to be crucial.
“It started to get drier and drier so there was always an option,” explained van der Garde in the post-race press conference when questioned about the later than normal stops, “we just waited to see which one to do.”
And it was the iSport team that blinked first, bringing their driver in three laps from the end, with the choice being to remain on the wet tyres, and after a fast pitstop, and Petrov's stop the following lap the Dutchman had leapfrogged into the lead.
But the race still had one last blast of drama to deliver.
With only one lap left Johnny Cecotto Jr., in his first GP2 race, crashed his DPR car heavily exiting the second Lesmo corner, running wide before spinning across the track to smash into the inside wall.
With a wrecked car stranded in the middle of the track it was none other than van der Garde, with attendant Petrov who rounded the corner to see Cecotto scurrying away. The yellow flags were out and the Safety Car boards followed by the time the lead pair were round Ascari, all that remained was to get round the Parabolica unscathed to claim victory (although Valerio had shown how hard that could be).
However, while van der Garde and iSport celebrated victory there were arguably better performances behind. Lucas Di Grassi overcame a ten-place grid penalty that relegated him to a 15th place start to grab the final podium position. Even more remarkable were Jerome d'Ambrosio and Eduardo Mortara, who started 21st and 22nd respectively, powering though the field to fourth and fifth, both ahead of sixth place Hulkenburg who now only needs to claim a single point more than Petrov in tomorrow's sprint race to be champion.
The reverse grid will see Luis Razia and Javier Villa on the front row, benefiting from a 25 second penalty to Spa feature race winner Alvaro Parente which saw him drop from seventh to eleventh.
Photo Credit: Andrew Ferraro / GP2 Series