Luca Ghiotto ran out with his third victory of the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship at the Sochi Autodrom in a Sprint Race that was temporarily red-flagged following a first lap accident involving Nikita Mazepin and Nobuharu Matsushita.
Mazepin started on reverse-grid pole alongside Jack Aitken, with Matsushita behind the pair in third position. Heading into the first braking zone at Turn Two, the top two took to the escape road and despite Aitken going round the bollards the correct way round, Mazepin took the wrong route through and the pair collided leaving Matsushita nowhere to go but into the barrier with the ART Grand Prix driver.
Aitken continued with a puncture but the red flag stopped the race to allow the marshals time to repair the barriers and for the medical team to check up on both Mazepin and Matsushita. Before the race got back underway behind the Safety Car, it had been reported that both drivers came away with no fractures but have both been transported to hospital for precautionary checks.
Ghiotto restarted the race in the lead ahead of Callum Ilott, Nyck de Vries, Nicholas Latifi, Sérgio Sette Câmara, Guanyu Zhou, Sean Gelael, Giuliano Alesi, with Artem Markelov and Mick Schumacher up to ninth and tenth after both beginning the Sprint Race on the back row of the grid.
With time running out for the F2 race to finish, the race distance was reduced from twenty-one to fifteen laps. The second tour saw the Safety Car come into the pits before de Vries lined up Ilott into Turn Two around the outside straight away to take second position, while Sette Câmara duplicated the move on his team-mate Latifi for fourth.
Time penalties were given to multiple drivers throughout the race. Sérgio Sette Câmara and Ralph Boschung were given five-second time penalties for leaving the track at Turn Two and gaining an advantage. Louis Delétraz was awarded ten seconds for causing a collision on the opening lap when he spun in front of the field, forcing some drivers to take evasive action.
Mick Schumacher’s weekend went from bad to worse, as he returned to the pits after contact with Giuliano Alesi and the German will leave Sochi with two non-finishes.
For multiple laps, de Vries kept within a second of Ghiotto but the turbulent air coming from the Italian driver’s car made grip very difficult for the Dutchman to preserve. Lap Ten and Alesi found his way past Artem Markelov for the final point to put his Trident up into the final points position in eighth.
Despite the top six bunching up, Ghiotto held his nerve and claimed the Sprint Race win ahead of de Vries by less than a second. Callum Ilott finished on the podium for the second time in his rookie year in Formula 2. Sette Câmara’s time penalty drops him from fourth to sixth, while Latifi took the extra two points for the fastest lap.
Nyck de Vries had already sealed the championship on Saturday, while the battle for runner-up will go to the final round in Abu Dhabi in two months time. Nicholas Latifi is the favourite ahead of third place Luca Ghiotto, with a margin of ten points.
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