Pierre Gasly secured his third victory of the season and returned to the top of the championship standings with a composed drive at Spa-Francorchamps during Saturday’s Feature race.
The Frenchman had to pass Gustav Malja for the lead early in the race, and then Jordan King after his pit stop to take back his advantage, and the Prema Racing driver was in untouchable form thereafter to clinch his victory.
Malja had taken the lead on the opening lap after getting ahead of both Gasly and pole sitter Antonio Giovinazzi, who had a dreadful start due to wheelspin on his Prema machine. The Rapax driver was quickly under threat from Gasly however, and was passed with relative ease on the Kemmel Straight with the use of DRS on the fifth lap.
Norman Nato followed Gasly passed Malja into second for Racing Engineering, but his team-mate King made the decision to pit at the earliest moment, which allowed him to gain momentum when Gasly pitted on the following lap, but the Frenchman was able to make the most of DRS again to draft passed the British driver to regain the position.
At this point, it was Artem Markelov who held the lead after starting on the harder Pirelli tyre and running long before his pit stop, but the pace of those who started on the softer tyre was strong enough that when the Russian driver did hit the pit lane, he dropped to ninth.
This gave Gasly the lead once more, and despite a virtual safety car was able to clinch victory by 11.262 seconds from King.
Unfortunately for Racing Engineering and for Nato however, the virtual safety car was to clear his car from the track after it ground to a halt on the exit of the final corner while running in a comfortable third place.
This left Alex Lynn to secure the final position on the podium after another strong drive from the DAMS driver, with a double pass on Malja and Daniel de Jong down the Kemmel Straight amongst the highlights of the race.
Raffaele Marciello secured fourth for Russian Time after a quietly efficient drive from the Italian, while his team-mate Markelov drove superbly in the closing stages to make it up to fifth, ending just 1.560 seconds behind Marciello.
Giovinazzi secured sixth at the end of the race, losing out with just a couple of laps to go to Markelov, while Luca Ghiotto secured seventh for Trident ahead of Malja, who after leading early on could not maintain his speed throughout the race could do no better than eighth, but at least he knows that’ll mean pole position for Sunday’s Sprint race.
The battle for ninth position ran right until the chequered flag, and ultimately was taken by Sergey Sirotkin, who passed both Oliver Rowland and Sergio Canamasas on the run to the finish line as the two clashed at the final chicane.
MP Motorsport’s Rowland attacked the returning Canamasas of Carlin into the turn, but a robust defensive move saw the two collide, allowing Sirotkin to pass for ninth. Rowland secured tenth, but Canamasas dropped to twelfth behind Nobuharu Matsushita.
Spa-Francorchamps Feature Race Result
|1||21||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Prema Racing||53:00.853|
|2||4||Jordan King||GBR||Racing Engineering||+11.262|
|4||9||Raffaele Marciello||ITA||Russian Time||+19.163|
|5||10||Artem Markelov||RUS||Russian Time||+20.723|
|6||20||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||Prema Racing||+24.616|
|9||2||Sergey Sirotkin||RUS||ART Grand Prix||+35.778|
|10||22||Oliver Rowland||GBR||MP Motorsport||+36.489|
|11||1||Nobuharu Matsushita||JAP||ART Grand Prix||+36.620|
|15||25||Jimmy Eriksson||SWE||Arden International||+47.842|
|16||7||Mitch Evans||NZL||Campos Racing||+51.263|
|17||23||Daniel de Jong||NED||MP Motorsport||+59.821|
|18||8||Sean Gelael||INO||Campos Racing||+1:10.120|
|19||24||Nabil Jeffri||MAY||Arden International||+1:11.915|
|20||14||Philo Paz Armand||INO||Trident||+1:35.380|
|RET||3||Norman Nato||FRA||Racing Engineering||Retired|