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Maldonado close to title as Bird wins

Sam Bird on the Monza podiumPastor Maldonado put one hand onto the 2010 GP2 Series champion's trophy despite failing to finish a chaotic feature race at Monza today, while ART's Sam Bird took a commanding race win.

Bird's role in the afternoon was relatively straightforward; the Briton capitalising on his front row start to pass polesitter and ART team-mate Jules Bianchi at the first corner, and cruising away unthreatened.

But behind him, the opening laps were messy. Arden's Rodolfo Gonzalez set the tone by crashing while warming his tyres on the installation lap, and Luca Filippi continued the theme on the opening lap by outbraking himself at the second chicane and collecting Giedo van der Garde, who was spun into Dani Clos. All three retired.

The incident prompted a safety car, but no sooner had it returned to the pits at the end of the second lap than it was needed again.

Maldonado had launched himself off the back of Romain Grosjean at the first corner on the restart, triggering an accident that resulted in Jerome D'Ambrosio tagging the rear of Bianchi, and Marcus Ericsson, Brendon Hartley and Luiz Razia getting tangled further back.

The latter three retired immediately, but remarkably everyone else was able to continue, albeit with an obviously damaged car in Maldonado's case.

His concerns were eliminated on the lap five restart when his only title rival Sergio Perez became involved in a crash with Michael Herck that put both out on the spot, meaning that the Mexican needs to win tomorrow's sprint race and score fastest lap, with Maldonado scoring no points, to keep the final, minuscule flicker of the title battle alive for the final round.

As it stands though, it is all but certain that Maldonado will formally wrap things up tomorrow.

After the drama of the first seven laps, things settled down into something more sedate. Bianchi passed Oliver Turvey to reclaim second, leaving Turvey to hang on for third and complete the podium, while another strong drive by Christian Vietoris left the Racing Engineering rookie in fourth ahead of D'Ambrosio.

Trident's hopes of locking out the front row for tomorrow's race were thwarted by Ocean's Fabio Leimer retiring late in the race and promoting Adrian Zaugg and Edoardo Piscopo up to sixth and seventh, with Max Chilton claiming the final point and pole for the sprint race.

Pos  Driver               Team                  Time/Gap
 1.  Sam Bird             ART                 49m27.229s
 2.  Jules Bianchi        ART                   + 8.585s
 3.  Oliver Turvey        iSport               + 17.168s
 4.  Christian Vietoris   Racing Engineering   + 18.249s
 5.  Jerome D'Ambrosio    DAMS                 + 19.361s
 6.  Adrian Zaugg         Trident              + 21.189s
 7.  Edoardo Piscopo      Trident              + 24.618s
 8.  Max Chilton          Ocean                + 28.662s
 9.  Davide Valsecchi     iSport               + 46.833s
10.  Fabrizio Crestani    DPR                  + 47.773s
11.  Charles Pic          Arden                + 50.494s
12.  Alvaro Parente       Coloni               + 59.930s
13.  Romain Grosjean      DAMS                   + 1 lap

Retirements:

     Fabio Leimer         Ocean               23 laps
     Pastor Maldonado     Rapax               7 laps
     Sergio Perez         Barwa Addax         5 laps
     Michael Herck        DPR                 5 laps
     Marcus Ericsson      Super Nova          3 laps
     Luiz Razia           Rapax               3 laps
     Brendon Hartley      Coloni              2 laps
     Dani Clos            Racing Engineering  0 laps
     Luca Filippi         Super Nova          0 laps
     Giedo van der Garde  Barwa Addax         0 laps
     Rodolfo Gonzalez     Arden               0 laps
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