George Russell secured his third FIA Formula 2 championship victory of the season to close the gap in the championship to Lando Norris to just seven points in an exciting mixed-weather Feature race at the Circuit Paul Ricard on Saturday.
The ART Grand Prix driver led from start to finish in a race that saw a mid-race rain shower that saw some drivers gamble, ultimately wrongly, to switch to the wet weather Pirelli tyres.
It was the drivers who managed to maintain their position on track whilst running in damp conditions on slick tyres that were the beneficiaries of points finishes, with a handful of drivers showing just how good they are when grip levels were at their lowest.
Russell was ahead of a three-car train at the front of the race, with only Sergio Sette Câmara and Alexander Albon seemingly able to keep up with the reigning GP3 Series champion, but the latter saw his race ended with a mechanical problem that saw him return to the pits at reduced speed.
His DAMS mechanics attempted a fix and sent him back out for a lap, but he was soon back in the pits for more work to be done. Despite being out of contention, he did return to the race and saw the chequered flag, although he was an unclassified twelve laps back.
Sette Câmara pitted made his mandatory pit stop one lap prior to Russell, and despite the Brazilian making gains late in the race, a lock up at the Mistral Chicane saw his charge all but end, although he did make a last corner lunge in an effort to scare the Briton off the track.
Roberto Merhi used his experience and took advantage of spins and pit stops from his rivals to claim a second podium finish of the season for MP Motorsport, although the Spaniard was more than thirty-three seconds off the leaders at the chequered flag.
Luca Ghiotto claimed fourth for Campos Vexatec Racing despite having two spins as he struggled for grip early in the race, while Antonio Fuoco drove superbly to fifth for Charouz Racing System despite taking a ten-second stop and go penalty for having a team member on the grid just as the formation lap got underway ahead of the start.
Fuoco made a late race re-pass on Nyck de Vries for fifth after the Dutchman struggled to maintain the life in his Supersoft tyres in the closing laps. The Dutchman was one of a handful of drivers to make the choice to start on the Medium compound tyre and struggled to maintain the heat in them when the track was at its wettest, but de Vries drove superbly when the circuit began to dry to move himself back into points contention.
Louis Delétraz scored points for a third consecutive race in seventh, surviving a few off-track moments of his own, including a half spin as he took the fight to Merhi, while Nicholas Latifi took the final point for DAMS after a thrilling late race battle with Russian Time’s Tadasuke Makino, with the duo switching places twice on the final lap after both had overhauled Nirei Fukuzumi’s BWT Arden.
Norris endured a nightmare afternoon, with both himself and Russian Time’s Artem Markelov stalling at the start, leaving both well down the field. Norris also was one of a handful of drivers that included Jack Aitken, Roy Nissany and Maximilian Günther to gamble on a switch to the wet tyres, but all were forced to pit again for slicks as the rain stopped and the track dried.
There were two brief Virtual Safety Car periods, with the first being caused by Sean Gelael spinning out, while the second was caused by Ralph Boschung, who’s troubles continued with an engine issue on board his MP Motorsport machine that saw him stop on the start/finish straight.
Circuit Paul Ricard Feature Race Result
|1||8||George Russell||GBR||ART Grand Prix||58:28.750|
|2||18||Sergio Sette Camara||BRZ||Carlin||+1.108|
|3||9||Roberto Merhi||ESP||MP Motorsport||+33.072|
|4||14||Luca Ghiotto||ITA||Campos Vexatec Racing||+37.879|
|5||21||Antonio Fuoco||ITA||Charouz Racing System||+43.655|
|6||4||Nyck de Vries||NED||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||+45.680|
|7||20||Louis Deletraz||SWI||Charouz Racing System||+53.226|
|9||2||Tadasuke Makino||JAP||Russian Time||+1:17.343|
|10||12||Nirei Fukuzumi||JAP||BWT Arden||+1:20.384|
|12||7||Jack Aitken||GBR||ART Grand Prix||+1:32.469|
|13||11||Maximilian Gunther||GER||BWT Arden||+1:37.662|
|14||17||Santino Ferrucci||USA||Trident||+1 Lap|
|15||1||Artem Markelov||RUS||Russian Time||+1 Lap|
|16||15||Roy Nissany||ISR||Campos Vexatec Racing||+1 Lap|
|17||19||Lando Norris||GBR||Carlin||+1 Lap|
|N/C||5||Alexander Albon||THA||DAMS||+12 Laps|
|RET||10||Ralph Boschung||SWI||MP Motorsport||Retired|
|RET||3||Sean Gelael||INO||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||Retired|