Max Chilton has claimed his first GP2 win today, leading from pole in this afternoon's feature race in Budapest with a strong, mature drive and soaking up race long pressure to claim victory from title rivals Davide Valsecchi and Luiz Razia.
The Englishman made a solid start when the lights went out, with Valsecchi right on his tail into turn one: behind them Razia ran side by side with Jolyon Palmer for the first few corners before latching onto Valsecchi and pushing the Italian for the rest of the lap, allowing Chilton to make a small break and concentrate on the job at hand.
Behind them the Lotus teammates were battling hard: Esteban Gutiérrez had a small touch with Razia at the first corner and was soon under pressure from James Calado, who dispatched the Mexican on the next lap before heading off after the top three, leaving his teammate looking in his mirrors at the train forming behind him.
Pit strategy was always going to be crucial at the tight circuit, and with Gutiérrez holding up the guys behind him Felipe Nasr, Palmer and Fabio Leimer came in on lap 11 to jump the queue, forcing those around them to react: Razia, Calado and Giedo van der Garde were in next time by, with Chilton and Valsecchi left with no choice by to pit one lap later.
Gutiérrez now led the field, ahead of Stefano Coletti, Julian Leal, Simon Trummer, Nigel Melker and Stéphane Richelmi (most of who started on the prime tyres, against the rest of the grid starting on super softs), with Chilton and Valsecchi emerging right behind them. The question now was how many of the late stoppers were going to be able to pace the chasing pack and emerge in the points.
The top 2 eventually pitted on lap 22, with the hounds in hot pursuit of the remaining front runners. Leal's pace was dropping, and while Trummer squeezed by, Chilton was unable to find a path past the Colombian, with Valsecchi and Razia hounding the Briton all around the track. It was only when Leal peeled into the pits 2 laps later that Chilton was able to drive at his own pace, and dictate the terms.
In the closing laps he started losing time to his pursuers, leaving a few anxious moments yet for Carlin as Valsecchi threw everything he had at Chilton, not holding back until out of the final turn when Chilton was greeted by the chequered flag just 0.6 seconds ahead of Valsecchi, with Razia right behind the pair. Calado was next across the line in 4th, four seconds to the good over van der Garde and Palmer in P5 and P6.
The fight for the reverse pole was monumental: Josef Kral headed a queue and ran in 7th until suffering a mechanical gremlin a few laps from the end, promoting Nathanaël Berthon. Nasr looked to have P8 until he appeared to brake too late and ran into the wall at turn 1, with Gutiérrez squeezing by Fabio Leimer to take tomorrow's pole, while Coletti rewarding himself with the final point on offer.
Razia's lead in the championship over Valsecchi has now reduced back to 5 points, 186 to 181, while Gutiérrez hangs on in third place on 133. Van der Garde now has a one point lead over Calado, 129 to 128, while Chilton's win puts him within touching distance of the pair on 124 points ahead of tomorrow's sprint race.