Pierre Gasly continued to strengthen his case for a Formula 1 seat in 2016 by claiming his third victory of the GP2 Series season on Saturday at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Red Bull junior driver Gasly started second on the grid behind Prema Racing teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, and remained P2 behind Gustav Malja in the early stages.
Gasly managed to battle past the Rapax driver on lap five at the end of the Kemmel Straight before making his sole pit stop three laps later.
The Frenchman slipped behind Racing Engineering’s Jordan King after the Briton got the undercut by pitting earlier, with Norman Nato also moving into contention for the lead by passing Malja.
Gasly was able to wrestle the advantage back from King on lap nine, cycling back into the lead once those running an alternative strategy had come in to make their first pit stop.
Gasly continued to soak up the pressure from the Racing Engineering drivers after struggling to open up a lead through the traffic before Nato’s race came to an end following a loss of power.
Nato left his stricken car on the main straight, forcing officials to call a Virtual Safety Car period that neutralized the race. Gasly managed to retain and even extend his lead, with King complaining over the radio that the Prema driver had pulled away.
Gasly kept his cool at the front to ease to his third win of the season and extend his championship lead, with King and Alex Lynn bringing a British flavor to the podium in second and third place respectively.
Raffaele Marciello and Artem Markelov finished fourth and fifth respectively for Russian Time, while pole-sitter Giovinazzi was left to settle for P6 at the checkered flag ahead of Luca Ghiotto and Malja, the latter securing reverse grid pole for Sunday.
The battle for P9 and P10 ended in contact at the final corner. Upon his return to the series, Sergio Canamasas tried to force Oliver Rowland wide at the chicane to keep hold of the position, only for the two to make contact. This allowed title contender Sergey Sirotkin to sweep through and take P9, with Rowland hobbling over the line in 10th.
The victory for Gasly sees his championship lead grow to 23 points over Sirotkin, with the pair set to start next to each other on Sunday for the sprint race.