The Frenchman, who started third, survived a hectic first few corners to take the lead, and would then only give that position up during the pitstops.
The mayhem started at the first corner, as poleman Jules Bianchi (Tech 1) went off trying to prevent fellow front row starter Marco Sorensen (Lotus) from taking the lead. The pair remained side by side for the second right hander as well, where they collided.
That spun Bianchi down the field, while a corner later Sorensen was caught up in a crash with ISR's Sam Bird, leading to both getting collected by the second Lotus entry of Cesar Ramos.
Behind them Bianchi spun again after a midfield touch and Nico Muller (Draco) crashed out, and with so many stricken cars on the track the safety car was deployed until lap seven.
After the first lap madness Pic (DAMS) led the restart away with Nick Yelloly, Kevin Korjus and Walter Grubmuller next up, all of whom had started towards the back of the top 10.
Yelloly's joy was shortlived when he stalled in the Comtec pits, while P1's Grubmuller jumped an early-stopping Korjus (Tech 1) in the pits to take second.
Korjus, who nearly came to blows with Alexander Rossi when the American emerged from the pits, also lost out to Draco's Andre Negrao for third, but he did pinch that place back in the closing stages. Rossi crossed the line fifth for Arden, just behind that scrap, while next up was Carlos Huertas (Fortec) and a recovering Bianchi.
Championship leader Robin Frijns (Fortec) had dropped from sixth to eighth on the first lap despite all the clashes ahead of him, but a disastrous pitstop and a late-race spin cost the Dutchman any chance of building a gap to his non-finishing title rivals.