Charles Leclerc secured his third Feature race victory and his fourth win overall during Saturday’s race at the Red Bull Ring, and left Austria with a 49-point advantage in the FIA Formula 2 Championship despite a retirement in the Sprint race.
The Prema Racing driver remains unbeaten in qualifying in 2017, starting from pole position for a fifth time in five Feature races, and although he did not have the ideal strategy this time around, he was able to hold on to victory on Saturday, despite Nicholas Latifi charging towards him in the final laps.
“It hasn’t been easy because at the end Nicholas was coming very, very quickly,” said Leclerc. “We had a really good start and then I tried to manage the tyres as much as I could because I knew I had to do a lot of laps before the pit-stop.
“After a while I was managing the situation and in the middle of the stint I could push a bit more opening quite a big gap which eventually allowed us to win because at the end the margin was narrow.
“After the stop, the softer tyres degraded quicker than we thought and they were bad at the end so it became easy to lock up. We finished at the limit.”
Unfortunately, Leclerc’s Sprint race only lasted four laps after an unlucky collision with team-mate Antonio Fuoco at turn four when the Italian was forced wide by Oliver Rowland, with the Monegasque driver spinning to a stop.
He had already managed to avoid the stalled car of Ralph Boschung on the start line with lightning reactions, but he was disappointed that his Sprint race was over so soon.
“It was close at the start and we managed to avoid the stopped car but then later in the race we had a contact and I couldn’t do much about it,” said Leclerc.
“It’s a shame but we look forward to Silverstone where we will try to catch up what we lost in race 2”.
Despite the retirement, Leclerc felt it was a positive weekend for Prema, and felt that they had the quickest car all weekend long, even in his short-lived second race.
“It has been a positive weekend with a good beginning, P1 in practice, P1 in qualifying and victory in race 1,” said Leclerc. “We couldn’t have done better, every time we were on-track we were the fastest and even in race 2 we were very quick.”