Fabio Leimer took the lead in the GP2 championship with victory at the Italian Grand Prix feature race, winning by just 0.8s from his closest rival in the standings Sam Bird.
Bird started from pole position on hard tyres while Leimer opted for mediums from second. The Racing Engineering driver got a much better start and settled into an early lead, but with Bird comfortably pegging him in second place the race was just heating up.
Leimer pitted for hards on lap 12 and Bird took full advantage of the clear air to start setting fastest laps. He got himself into a position to hold onto the lead when he pitted on lap 20, but a slow tyre change on the right rear lost him over five seconds and Leimer had a four second lead when Bird returned to the track.
The Russian Time car had newer and softer tyres, allowing Bird to close up on Leimer in the final ten laps. But catching Leimer was one thing but passing proved to be another and Bird never really had the opportunity to get out of the Racing Engineering's dirty air and attack for the lead. He appeared to lose most his time in the two medium-speed Lesmo corners and he couldn't close the gap over the rest of the lap.
The pair crossed the line separated by 0.8s but in the knowledge they had both leapfrogged Stefano Coletti and Felipe Nasr at the top of the championship after they both retired from the race. Coletti's race was ruined by a drive-through for speeding in the pit lane and he later came in to retire altogether. Nasr's V8 Renault started producing smoke on lap 18 and he pulled off the track soon after. Leimer now leads the championship on 153 points from Bird on 145, Coletti on 135 and Nasr on 130.
Bird's team-mate Tom Dillmann finished third to put Russian Time on the top of the team's championship. Dillmann had started fifth on the grid behind the top two, Jolyon Palmer and Marcus Ericsson. However, Palmer and Ericsson both ran into trouble, with Palmer coming out of a pit stop without a wheel properly attached and Ericsson suffering a puncture heading into the first corner that saw him narrowly avoid a big accident.
Stephane Richelmi also benefitted from the high level of attrition at the front of the field, coming from 10th on the grid to finish fourth ahead of Julian Leal, who had started 13th. James Calado took sixth place after starting seventh, while Adrian Quaife-Hobbs made up eight positions from his starting place to finish seventh. Alexander Rossi will start from the reverse grid pole on Sunday after making a long stint on the hard tyres work for him to finish eighth ahead of team-mate Sergio Canamasas in ninth and Vittorio Ghirelli, who took the first point of his GP2 career, in tenth.