PREMA’s Charles Leclerc has prevailed in an epic battle to beat Luca Ghiotto to victory in the FIA Formula 2 Spanish GP feature race this saturday.
The Monegasque started from pole just ahead of Ghiotto as the two men got away cleanly off the line. Leclerc initially had to fight off Ghiotto on lap one but he was later able to build a gap before the first round of pit stops as the Italian was occupied fighting off the ART of Alexander Albon who had made a terrific start up to third.
As the leading duo, who were on a Soft/Hard strategy pitted for the harder tyres, the safety car was deployed a lap later to recover the Trident of Sergio Canamasas, thus compromising drivers on the inverse, Hard/Soft strategy.
Leclerc and Ghiotto, however, still had to fight their way through the field as they were 12th and 13th at the restart, climbing up to the top five before regaining their lead when the drivers ahead finally pitted. Ghiotto still managed his tyres well enough to retain his lead to the end and score his first feature race victory and second victory overall in F2, almost four seconds ahead of Ghiotto in 2nd.
Oliver Rowland had been in the lead an was the last driver to pit on lap 29, switching to softs and leading an inspired charge through the top six and overtaking cars aplenty and wringing yet another impressive podium finish in 3rd.
Nobuharu Matsushita benefited from the early safety car to claim 4th place ahead of ART team mate Alexander Albon in 5th. Nicholas Latifi managed to steal 6th on the very last lap from underneath Gustav Malja who scored his first points of 2017 in 7th place.
Artem Markelov’s late-race overtake on Jordan King means he scores points in 8th place and will start Sunday’s sprint race from the reverse-grid pole, while King lead Ralph Boschung home in 9th and 10th respectively.
With this victory, Leclerc increases his points tally to 65 points at the top of the drivers’ standings, 29 points clear from Ghiotto while Rowland trails the Italian by one point in 3rd.
The sprint race starts Sunday at 10:35 local time (GMT +2)
- Ralph Boschung loses his first point in F2 after he was struck with a 20-second time penalty for exceeding the safety car speed limit while exiting the pits, dropping him to 12th and promoting Nyck de Vries to the final points-paying position.
- Johnny Cecotto also received a 20 second time penalty, as he failed to completely remove pressure from throttle within the proscribed time period.
- Sergio Sette Camara was handed a time penalty during the race and failed to observe it: 10 seconds has subsequently been added to his overall time.
Image courtesy of FIA Formula 2 Media