Charles Leclerc clinched the FIA Formula 2 Championship with a sixth victory of the season in a thrilling Feature race at the Circuito de Jerez on Saturday.
The Monegasque driver has an unassailable lead with three races of the season remaining after clinching the victory, even though his closest challenger, Oliver Rowland, claimed second on the day.
On what was looking like a stroll in the park, the race was turned on its head with just a handful of laps remaining when Nobuharu Matsushita and Santino Ferrucci clashed to bring out the safety car, with the American stranded in the gravel trap at turn one and debris all over the kerbs.
With the field closed up, it meant the drivers on the alternative strategy, having started on the harder of the two tyre compounds brought to Spain, had the advantage in the final five-lap shoot-out to the chequered flag, with Antonio Fuoco the biggest winner as he climbed from tenth to claim the final spot on the podium.
It was a chaotic end to the race, with Leclerc struggling with his tyres defending from Rowland, but between the Briton and the battle for the final podium spot between Fuoco and Nicholas Latifi were two lapped runners, Louis Delétraz and Sean Gelael, both of who were on the softer compound and show front-running pace!
Leclerc raised his hands in celebration as he crossed the line to clinch the win from Rowland, who had raised his hands earlier on the final lap to stop Delétraz passing him down the back straight, especially as he would have remained in championship contention had he found a way passed the race leader.
The battle for third also went down to the wire, with Fuoco and Latifi banging wheels exiting the final corner, but from fifteenth on the grid, the Italian made it two Prema Racing drivers on the podium.
Artem Markelov claimed fifth for Russian Time with a late race charge of his own, with Jordan King, who made his mandatory pit stop during the safety car period, claiming sixth for MP Motorsport.
Luca Ghiotto had been running comfortably inside the top three for much of the race, but running on older, harder tyres, he slipped down to seventh, while Alex Palou, on the opposite strategy, claimed an impressive eighth on debut for Campos Racing, and reverse grid pole for Sunday’s Sprint race.
Nabil Jeffri will be breathing a huge sigh of relief as the Malaysian driver finally secured his first points of the season in ninth for Trident, while Sergio Sette Câmara, another driver to suffer in the closing laps on the old, worn tyres, fell to tenth at the chequered flag, taking the final point by just 0.030 seconds from Norman Nato.
Circuito de Jerez Feature Race Result
|1||1||Charles Leclerc||MON||Prema Racing||1:01:31.999s|
|3||2||Antonio Fuoco||ITA||Prema Racing||+0.917s|
|5||6||Artem Markelov||RUS||Russian Time||+2.685s|
|6||15||Jordan King||GBR||MP Motorsport||+6.744s|
|7||5||Luca Ghiotto||ITA||Russian Time||+8.017s|
|8||12||Alex Palou||ESP||Campos Racing||+8.262s|
|10||14||Sergio Sette Camara||BRZ||MP Motorsport||+16.226s|
|11||20||Norman Nato||FRA||Pertamina Arden||+16.256s|
|12||8||Alexander Albon||THA||ART Grand Prix||+17.122s|
|13||3||Nyck de Vries||NED||Racing Engineering||+17.657s|
|14||4||Gustav Malja||SWE||Racing Engineering||+24.855s|
|16||21||Sean Gelael||INO||Pertamina Arden||+1 Lap|
|17||18||Louis Deletraz||ITA||Rapax||+1 Lap|
|18||7||Nobuharu Matsushita||JAP||ART Grand Prix||+1 Lap|
|RET||11||Ralph Boschung||SWI||Campos Racing||Retired|