Italian powers through field for win
Giorgio Pantano has laid down a huge marker to the rest of the grid after exploding past his rivals to steal an incredible victory ahead of Lucas di Grassi and Karun Chandhok.
The Italian started from fifth on the grid, but kept his head while all around him the others were losing theirs, managing his tyres and timing his challenge to perfection to take the win from di Grassi, who looked certain to claim his first win of the season until Pantano took it from him with six laps to go and then sailed serenely on to the chequered flag.
Bruno Senna led the grid away well from pole position, with di Grassi easily muscling his way past Romain Grosjean into Stowe, but 3 laps into the race Senna made a mistake when he went too deep and undid all of his good work as his rivals streamed past: the Brazilian was soon back up to speed but with fierce battles all around him he had to fight hard just to hold position.
Kamui Kobayashi came in for his customary early stop, coming out into clean air and running a string of fastest laps to maintain his position at the head of the list of drivers who had stopped, but all eyes were on the battle at the front as di Grassi, Grosjean, Pantano, Andreas Zuber and Senna squabbled for a way by each other: Grosjean was the first of the front men to stop, coming out just ahead of the Japanese driver, with Pantano re-emerging on his tail a lap later and the two Brazilians narrowly avoiding contact in the pit lane and di Grassi holding on, just, to the top spot.
Unfortunately for Kobayashi his hard work was undone by a mechanical gremlin a few laps later, but ahead of him Pantano was piling on the pressure to Grosjean, who was locking up all around the circuit before finally circuming to the inevitable pressure and relinquishing second after banging wheels into Abbey: di Grassi was now 3.7 seconds ahead of the Italian but Giorgio was on a mission, running a string of fastest laps to put himself onto the rear wing of the Brazilian driver.
Behind them was another battle royale, with Zuber, Chandhok and Senna running like a train up to the rear of Grosjean, whose tyres were already worn out: with Sébastien Buemi soon piling on the pressure the five drivers were swapping positions almost corner by corner, with Chandhok finally able to shake off Grosjean and move up the road while the Frenchman struggled intently to hold back the others.
Back at the front it was Pantano who swooped across the line to take the chequered flag four seconds ahead of di Grassi, who nevertheless held on for a solid second position ahead of a delighted Chandhok.
Behind them Buemi just managed to clear the fight for fourth, with Grosjean and Senna finishing in that order after swapping positions right up until the flag, while Zuber and Luca Filippi rounding out the points positions just behind them.
But it was Pantano who had all eyes upon him as he sprayed the champagne on the top step of the podium, delighted to have claimed his third win of the season with a magnificent driver in a chaotic event to extend his championship lead to 46 points, 13 ahead of nearest rival Senna, while Buemi holds on to third position with 25 points, just two points ahead of Grosjean in fourth.