The Racing Steps Foundation-backed driver, who qualified in ninth place the previous day, was handed a stroke of luck on the formation lap ahead of the race when his fellow fifth row grid starter Artem Markelov ground to a halt.
The rest of the field were forced into a further two formation laps as the Russian Time machine was cleared away ahead of the start.
Rowland, on medium compound Pirelli tyres made a positive getaway when the lights did go out, capitalising on the slow-starting Prema car of Pierre Gasly, moving up two places to seventh by the end of the opening tour.
Rowland and his MP Motorsport machine were soon up a further place, passing the Racing Engineering car of Jordan King on lap two. Rowland remained in sixth place until he was one of the first drivers to pit on lap six of 29, switching his medium tyres for the more durable orange-walled hard compound of rubber.
Although gaining the undercut on those cars that pitted a handful of laps later, Rowland and the MP Motorsport squad were hoping that they would be able to preserve the life of the tyres for the remainder of the race.
But with a technical malfunction preventing all drivers from using their Drag Reduction System along the main pit straight, Rowland was unable to pass the second Racing Engineering car of Norman Nato. It would be a pivotal point in Rowland’s race.
Once the rest of the field had made their pit stops, including those drivers attempting the alternate strategy of starting on the hard tyre and switching to mediums, Rowland was a net fourth place.
But with five laps of the race remaining, Rowland’s tyres, at 17 laps old, began to fall off the cliff.
He began to lose handfuls of time, releasing his assault on Nato ahead and falling into the clutches of DAMS’ Alex Lynn. The pair battled a great tussle, with Rowland mistakingly heading wide around the slow right hander before the main back straight.
Rowland responded, hugging the pit wall and re-taking the place out of turn one. But Lynn had his revenge the following lap, with Raffaello Marchiello and King all going side-by-side with a determined Rowland, but all making their way past.
It dropped Rowland to seventh place, which became eighth when Rapax racer Luca Ghiotto, the highest placed driver on medium compound tyres, got ahead on the penultimate tour.
Rowland’s misery was compounded when, with his tyres all but gone, he spun out of turn nine on the final lap.
Returning to the track, he was out-dragged on the exit of the final corner by Pierre Gasly, the pair crossing the line together, but the Prema car took 11th position by 0.012s, leaving Rowland in 12th place and out of the points-scoring positions.
Prema’s Antonio Giovinazzi scored a thrilling race victory to move ahead of Gasly into the championship lead. He headed ART GP’s Sergei Sirotkin with Nato third.
Photo: GP2 Series Media Service. Copyright-free Racing Steps Foundation pictures are available for editorial use from the RSF Image Bank at www.jakobebrey.com/rsf