Charles Leclerc rounded off a phenomenal rookie season in Formula 2 by storming to Sprint Race victory at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The Monegasque driver sliced his way through the field to take the victory away from Alexander Albon on the final lap. The former team-mates were joined by Nicholas Latifi on the podium.
When the race got underway it was a poor start for poleman Jordan King who bogged down, allowing Albon and Nobuharu Matsushita to lead Latifi into Turn 1.
The Canadian got the better of the Japanese driver into the second corner as Nyck de Vries, Leclerc, King, Luca Ghiotto, Sergio Sette Camara and Artem Markelov followed through. The latter pair soon switched places at Turn 8.
Out at the front, Albon set about breaking out of DRS range to avoid any chance of an attack from Latifi behind.
The Russian Time duo of Ghiotto and Markelov were on a charge as they aimed to seal the Teams’ Championship which they had a ten point advantage in coming into the race.
As the pair caught King, they each ran either side of him with the Russian tagging the rear of the Briton’s tyre which sent him off the track with a puncture which resulting in him retiring from the race.
Despite having started at the back of the grid following being disqualified from yesterday’s Feature Race, the Russian Time pair soon had Oliver Rowland on their tails who was having a mighty drive to come back through the field. The Briton fought Markelov for his position until the end of the race.
Leclerc, was continuing his progress at the front making quick work of de Vries in his Racing Engineering for fourth place before setting his sights on a podium finish. It took only three laps for the Prema driver to dispose of Matsushita in third.
It seemed only Ghiotto was able to run at the pace of Leclerc who also made quick work of de Vries but had a tricker time trying to get through on Matsushita, with the pair switching positions all the way to the flag.
With four laps to go Latifi had no answer to the pace and challenge of Leclerc and was down to third place and the latter eyed up closing the gap to Albon ahead.
Leclerc quickly cut the gap to the Thai driver and looked to get the job down in one of the DRS zones but yellow flags from the back straight to the marina section for debris meant DRS was disabled and overtaking prohibited meaning Leclerc had to get creative.
Running out of options and on the last lap, Leclerc launched an attack up the inside of the hairpin before the long straight. Contact was made between the pair who ran side by side to Turn 8.
Holding the inside line Leclerc squeezed his way through and without the second DRS zone Albon had no way to fight for the position back and crossed the line one second behind the race winner.
Latifi came third in the final race of the year ahead of Matsushita, and Ghiotto. Markelov held off Rowland who had driven an incredible recovery. Camara grabbed the final point.
Already crowned champion, Leclerc extended his advantage to 72 points with Markelov being crowned vice-champion ahead of Rowland in third.
Russian Time claimed the Teams’ Championship for the second time in their history, 15 points clear of Prema and DAMS.
2017 FIA Formula 2 Sprint Race Results – Yas Marina
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*received five second time penalties during the race