Romain Grosjean fended off a fierce challenge from Sam Bird in the closing stages to win the GP2 season opener at Istanbul Park. DAMS driver Grosjean was never headed during the race, but he would not have expected such a tense finish after he emerged from the pit stops with a lead of more than five seconds over iSport's Bird. But the Briton, who had regained second place from Dani Clos (Racing Engineering) with a brave move at Turn 12 on lap five, chipped away at Grosjean's lead for the remaining 14 laps, and spent the last four laps within a second of him.
Grosjean appeared relatively unflustered as Bird chased him down, but he showed signs of the pressure when he went wide at Turn 12 on the final lap. Bird sensed an opportunity, but Grosjean went seriously defensive for the final two corners to hold on for the win.
The front two finished more than half a minute ahead of Jules Bianchi, who had to recover from an eventful early part of the race. The ART driver was trying to pass fast-starter Clos in the early stages, but he ended up losing out to an opportunistic move from Luca Filippi around the outside of Turn 3. Both were soon past Clos, but Bianchi lost more ground at his pit stop when he was slow to pull away. That left him scrapping with Josef Kral and Stefano Coletti at the head of a big group of cars in the lower reaches of the points.
Bianchi eventually dealt with those two, and then passed Christian Vietoris for fifth as the German dropped through the pack like a stone after making an early pit stop to change tires. From there, Bianchi then caught and passed Clos and the impressive Giedo van der Garde, who stayed out of trouble to work his way from 12th to third before Bianchi passed him.
Behind them, Coletti held off the attentions of Luiz Razia to take fifth, while Charles Pic put late moves on Marcus Ericsson and a struggling Clos to come home seventh.
Filippi got no reward for his early heroics, as he was collected by Johnny Cecotto Jr when the Ocean driver ran wide coming out of Turn 8 and spun across the track. There was another dramatic accident on the opening lap, when Fabio Leimer went over the back of Max Chilton and rolled at high speed on the exit of Turn 2.
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