George Russell took a brilliantly-executed victory from fourth on the grid from the British driver, after taking the lead from Nyck De Vries following the first virtual safety car period, after which, the Englishman was never headed until the end of the race. This is despite the difficult conditions which were at play this afternoon, with the Mercedes-Benz junior driver impressing in front of the bosses at the first European event of the year.
After starting the race from pole position, Alexander Albon bogged down off the line, and immediately fell down to fourth place, while De Vries in the Pertamina prema Theodore Racing car grabbed the lead of the race from the ART Grand Prix driver of Russell, and the Campos Vexatec Racing entry of Luca Ghiotto. Further behind, Maxmillian Gunther in the BWT Arden machine got sideways through turn five and beached himself in the gravel at turn six, thus ending his day early. This brought out the first of several virtual safety car periods of the afternoon.
After the restart, it didn’t take long for Russell to close up to the back of De Vries, and with better straight-line speed in the ART, he was able to make an easy move for the race lead. Meanwhile, Albon was determined to make up for his poor start, and after shaking off the offensive of Lando Norris, the Thai driver was able to make a diving move on Ghiotto to elevate himself back into the top three.
Shortly afterwards, disaster struck for MP Motorsport when Ralph Boschung and Roberto Merhi hit each other down at the first corner, thus taking the Swiss driver out of the race, and ruining any chance of a good, points-scoring race for the Dutch team.
But, then the rain began to intensify, which saw Arjun Maini in the Trident fall foul of a lack of grip down at turn four, where the Indian driver asked too much of his tyres, and put himself in the gravel.
All of these early VSC periods meant that the soft tyre runners were able to stretch their tyres to at least lap 15. This included front-runners such as Lando Norris and Jack Aitken. Aitken pitted on lap 17, and was consequently able to jump fellow Brit Norris in the pit-stop window.
In the middle part of the stint for the prime tyre runners, Russell was able to pull away from De Vries, who was caught and past by Albon, only for the Dutchman to return the favour by the time they needed to come into the pits.
For the Thai driver, he suffered severe tyre degradation, and consequently emerged further down the order than expected after his pit-stop, behind Aitken and Norris, who were on the alternate strategy. Although, he was able to recover and beat Aitken for fifth place.
As for the top two, they managed to pit and get out ahead of Norris, who was rapidly catching the leading pair in the final segment of the race on the option tyre.
Then, the final VSC period of the afternoon came out after Sean Gelael was hit by the Charouz Racing System car of Louis Deletraz at turn one, which ended both their races in the process.
At the restart, Russell was very aggressive in his defence against De Vries, firstly making three defensive moves on the straight at the Dutchman’s first attempt, and had to fend off De Vries’s offensive attempt at turn four. After which, Russell was able to finish the job to claim his second Formula 2 victory.
Meanwhile, Norris was trying to come back at De Vries after the Dutchman locked up at turn four, with a last-lap lunge down at turn 10. However, the British driver was unable to make the move stick, and was forced to settle for third place.
So, it was Russell who won his second F2 race and his first feature race victory in a crazy race at Barcelona to move into third place in the drivers championship ahead of De Vries and Norris.
In regards for the race tomorrow, Artem Markelov was able to make a penultimate lap pass on team-mate Tadasuke Makino to take reverse-grid pole, which will put the Russian in the best possible position to score big in the sprint race.