Stoffel Vandoorne extended his GP2 points advantage with a fifth feature race victory of the season at Spa in an drama-filled encounter characterised by incidents up and down the field.
The most severe of these involved Daniel de Jong, who ploughed straight into the tyre barriers at barely abated speed at Blanchimont as a result of contact with Pierre Gasly on the sixth lap.
Exiting Stavelot, the Dutchman had tried to line up a move around the outside of the high-speed left-hander, but was squeezed to the edge of the circuit by Gasly, who then touched de Jong and caused the terrifying high-speed crash.
After three laps behind the Safety Car, the red flags were shown in order to repair the badly damaged barrier, with de Jong taken to hospital for assessment but seemingly escaping serious injury.
There had already been plenty of action at the start of the race: Vandoorne was overtaken by Sergey Sirotkin as the lights went out, only for the Russian to run wide at La Source, as Nobuharu Matsushita clattered into the rear of a slow-starting Oliver Rowland behind.
On the exit of the hairpin, there was a further clash between Gasly and Norman Nato, which forced the latter to retire.
The result was that Vandoorne held the lead on the opening lap, ahead of Rossi – after a demon start from eighth on the grid – while Mitch Evans, fourth on lap one, was able to breeze past Sirotkin with the help of DRS along the Kemmel straight for third some laps later.
Vandoorne had stretched a lead of almost two seconds over Rossi by the time the Safety Car was deployed on the sixth lap, the Belgian duly pitting under caution to switch from soft to hard tyres.
That left the Belgian ninth in the queue when the action resumed, and though most of the hard-shod drivers ahead swapped to soft tyres during the red flag pause, they were still required to make an additional stop in the remaining laps.
Vandoorne had already moved up to sixth by the time Rossi came in for another set of soft tyres at the end of lap 16, and the points leader was back into the lead by the time the rest of the leading drivers made their stops, with Evans and Sirotkin enjoying brief stints at the front.
Rio Haryanto, after passing Campos teammate Arthur Pic at the final chicane, was up to second when he was hit by a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for a personnel infringement at the restart.
That promoted Pic back to the runner-up position, finishing 10 seconds behind Vandoorne, ahead of fellow one-stoppers Artem Markelov (up from 22nd on the grid) and Julian Leal.
Taking advantage of his fresh tyres, Rossi was able to work his way back up to fifth after his stop, but forced an attacking Evans wide at the final chicane on the final lap. After light contact between the pair, Evans cut the corner to steal the place in a move under investigation by the stewards.
Nathanael Berthon was seventh ahead of Jordan King, who recovered from his late stop to secure reverse grid pole for Sunday’s sprint race, while Sirotkin led a gaggle of cars over the finish line to take ninth ahead of Marlon Stockinger in the final point-paying place.
|1||Stoffel Vandoorne||ART Grand Prix||1h22:18.099|
|2||Arthur Pic||Campos Racing||9.979|
|3||Artem Markelov||RUSSIAN TIME||12.856|
|5||Mitch Evans||RUSSIAN TIME||19.264|
|6||Alexander Rossi||Racing Engineering||19.527|
|7||Nathanael Berthon||Daiko Team Lazarus||23.723|
|8||Jordan King||Racing Engineering||29.267|
|10||Marlon Stockinger||Status Grand Prix||34.859|
|13||Sergio Canamasas||Daiko Team Lazarus||35.797|
|15||Rio Haryanto||Campos Racing||41.571|
|16||Richie Stanaway||Status Grand Prix||43.894|
|20||Andre Negrao||Arden International||63.453|
|Oliver Rowland||MP Motorsport||7 laps|
|Nick Yelloly||Hilmer Motorsport||DNF|
|Nobuharu Matsushita||ART Grand Prix||DNF|
|Daniel de Jong||MP Motorsport||DNF|
|Norman Nato||Arden International||DNF|