Antonio Giovinazzi has taken his and PREMA Racing team’s first GP2 Series win in a chaotic European GP support race at the Baku City Circuit.

Only 10 cars saw the chequered flag in a crash-strewn race which had no less than four Safety Car interruptions.

After starting from pole position, Giovinazzi lost the lead with a poor getaway to ART’s Nobuharu Matsushita. Behind them was complete carnage at the first corner, triggered by Pierre Gasly tipping championship leader Norman Nato into a spin, who then collected Sergio Canamasas. Further back, Alex Lynn tried to take avoiding action but he was hit by Marvin Kirchhöfer and was forced out along with DAMS teammate Nicholas Latifi.

2016 GP2 Series Feature Race accident

Five drivers were eliminated on the spot in the Turn 1 crash – it was a portent of things to come in a race where just ten drivers survived to the finish.

The accident brought out the Safety Car and when it pulled in, Matsushita was followed by Russian Time’s Raffaele Marciello. The pair traded the lead many times in a thrilling battle, using the slipstream at the end of the lap to great effect before the Italian was able to make his lead stick with a move into Turn 3.

The Safety Car was deployed once again to allow Philo Paz Armand’s car to be cleared from Turn 1 after yet another accident for the Indonesian driver. This allowed the leaders to benefit by making their compulsory pit stop under Safety Car conditions, however a late call to bring in the Safety Car caught the cars that had not pitted off-guard and allowed a rocketing Marciello back into the lead after his pit stop.

A collision between Artem Markelov and Arthur Pic – for which the latter was subsequently hit with a grid penalty – caused the race to be neutralized once more, and Marciello had no trouble stretching his lead once the racing resumed, with second place Matsushita dropping back after running wide at Turn 1.

Giovinazzi, having dropped back as low as fourth at the start, started to carve his way back and was able to easily dispatch of Matsushita and Oliver Rowland. Now hot on Marciello’s heels, the PREMA driver used his compatriot’s slipstream to get past into Turn 1 and take the lead.

After stretching a gap, Giovinazzi’s advantage was scrapped when the Safety Car was deployed a fourth and final time to recover Norman Nato’s stricken Racing Engineering car. Having managed to keep going after his accident at the start, the Frenchman was eventually taken out by teammate Jordan King into Turn 3.

With just two laps to go, the Safety Car was in and Giovinazzi had a big lock up into Turn 1 but held on to the lead, while ART’s Sergey Sirotkin had a late charge, taking third from Oliver Rowland and snatching second from Marciello in a sprint to the finish line.

Oliver Rowland was fourth ahead of a faster Mitch Evans in fifth, while Matsushita faded to sixth ahead of Sean Gelael, Daniël de Jong, Luca Ghiotto and Gustav Malja.

With the top four in the Drivers’ Championship standings all retiring from the race, Norman Nato still leads Markelov by one point, while Marciello moves up to third. The top four runners are separated by just 8 points.

The Sprint Race will take place on Sunday at 14:00 local time (GMT +4).

2016 GP2 Series Europe – Feature Race Final Classification (26 laps^)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result
1. Antonio Giovinazzi it PREMA Racing 26 1:03:05.420
2. Sergey Sirotkin ru ART Grand Prix 26 + 1.233
3. Raffaele Marciello it RUSSIAN TIME 26 + 1.343
4. Oliver Rowland uk MP Motorsport 26 + 2.141
5. Mitch Evans nz Pertamina Campos Racing 26 + 2.628
6. Nobuharu Matsushita jp ART Grand Prix 26 + 3.110
7. Sean Galeal id Pertamina Campos Racing 26 + 5.808
8. Daniel de Jong nl MP Motorsport 26 + 6.663
9. Luca Ghiotto it Trident 26 + 7.058
10. Gustav Malja se Rapax 26 + 7.595
11. Jimmy Eriksson se Arden International 24 Collision
12. Jordan King uk Racing Engineering 24 Collision
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps
DNF. Norman Nato fr Racing Engineering 18 Accident
DNF. Nabil Jeffri my Arden International 14 Accident
DNF. Arthur Pic* fr Rapax 7 Collision
DNF. Artem Markelov ru RUSSIAN TIME 7 Collision
DNF. Philo Paz Armand id Trident 5 Accident
DNF. Sergio Canamasas es Carlin 0 Collision
DNF. Pierre Gasly fr PREMA Racing 0 Collision
DNF. Nicholas Latifi ca DAMS 0 Collision
DNF. Marvin Kirchhöfer de Carlin 0 Collision
DNF. Alex Lynn uk DAMS 0 Collision

^ Race distance reduced from its originally scheduled 29 laps

*Post-Race Penalties:

  • Arthur Pic was found guilty of causing an avoidable collision with Artem Markelov and will drop five grid places for Sunday’s Sprint Race. He will start the race from P20.

Images via GP2 Series Media

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Ahmad Shallouf

Contributing Writer at MotorsportM8