McLaren junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne won a mesmerizing round three of the GP2 Series at Barcelona, in a race of diverse tyre strategies and impacted by a malfunctioning DRS.
Vandoorne, Pierre Gasly and Alex Lynn all started on the soft tyre from the top three positions on the grid, with Mitch Evans and Alexander Rossi and the majority of those behind starting on the hard.
Vandoorne didn't make a great start, but clung on to his lead as Gasly passed Lynn – who didn't capitalize on his excellent initial launch off the startline – round the outside at Turn 1.
Evans ran fourth from Rossi and Arthur Pic, up from 11th on the grid on the soft tyre.
Vandoorne extended a 1.3s lead on the opening lap, with Lynn pressuring Gasly for second early on but slipping back.
Behind them, Rio Haryanto passed teammate Pic for sixth on lap five with a great move around the outside of Turn 1.
Vandoorne pitted at the first opportunity on lap six, as did Gasly, and despite a slow front-left change Vandoorne just kept his advantage over the Frenchman.
Lynn was told to "push like hell" and pitted a lap later, rejoining behind Vandoorne and Gasly, all of which handed the lead to Evans from Rossi, Haryanto and Raffaele Marciello, who had passed Norman Nato at Turn 10.
Bahrain Sprint Race winner Haryanto ran for longer on the softs, which allowed Pic back past him but ensured he had more grip towards the end.
The new-for-2015 DRS didn't work for any driver for most of the race, which made life harder for the early pitters whose strategy depended on them overtaking the midfielders who were yet to stop on hard tyres.
As a result, Vandoorne and Gasly lost time in the middle stages in traffic, and despite some well-executed moves it meant Evans and Rossi were able to run in clear air up front.
Gasly got stuck behind Vandoorne's ART teammate Nobuharu Matsushita and then the stubborn Sergio Canamasas, which allowed Vandoorne to escape and keep the gap to the leaders to 26s
Rossi pitted before leader Evans from second, rejoining behind DAMS duo Gasly and Lynn. Evans pitted a lap later, rejoining behind Lynn, but Rossi made short work of the DAMS cars and set off after Vandoorne.
On fresh soft tyres, Rossi carved into Vandoorne's 7s lead – as DRS began to work again with eight laps to go.
Evans stomped past Gasly and Lynn to take third, and closed in on Rossi.
Gasly and Lynn battled so hard that Haryanto passed Lynn for fifth, as they spent much of one lap side by side. Haryanto and then Lynn passed Gasly with a couple of laps remaining.
Rossi got DRS on Vandoorne with three laps to go, but couldn't get any closer than 0.6s before his soft tyres went off and he fell away again.
Rossi now had Evans looming in his mirrors, and he dive-bombed him with a risky move with two laps to go.
Vandoorne did a superb job to cling on to victory, beating Evans to the flag by 1.9s. Rossi finished third ahead of Haryanto, Lynn, Marciello and Gasly.
"That was a hard race, but it feels good!" said Vandoorne of his splendid – and hard-earned – victory.
|1||Stoffel Vandoorne||ART Grand Prix||1h00m31.992|
|2||Mitchell Evans||RUSSIAN TIME||1h00m33.949||1.957|
|3||Alexander Rossi||Racing Engineering||1h00m36.631||4.639|
|4||Rio Haryanto||Campos Racing||1h00m49.729||17.737|
|8||Norman Nato||Arden International||1h01m01.544||29.552|
|9||Arthur Pic||Campos Racing||1h01m02.430||30.438|
|10||Richie Stanaway||Status Grand Prix||1h01m03.527||31.535|
|11||Nobuharu Matsushita||ART Grand Prix||1h01m03.698||31.706|
|12||Artem Markelov||RUSSIAN TIME||1h01m04.018||32.026|
|13||Sergio Canamasas||MP Motorsport||1h01m26.479||54.487|
|14||Jordan King||Racing Engineering||1h01m27.469||55.477|
|15||Daniel de Jong||MP Motorsport||1h01m28.897||56.905|
|21||Johnny Cecotto Jr||Hilmer Motorsport||1h01m39.777||1m07.785|
|23||Andre Negrao||Arden International||–|
|R||Marlon Stockinger||Status Grand Prix||–|
|R||Nick Yelloly||Hilmer Motorsport||–|