Charles Leclerc stormed into victory at the European GP feature race in Baku after a chaotic race that included two safety car periods and was stopped 5 laps short of its original distance.
The Ferrari junior started from pole and maintained his composure in the attrition filled race to take a commanding victory and extend his championship lead.
After a good getaway, Leclerc led from Nicholas Latifi and Nyck de Vries who got the jump on the slow starting Nobuharu Matsushita into Turn 1 as the Japanese just managed to hold off Artem Markelov and Oliver Rowland into Turn 2. His efforts to protect his track position were helped by Johnny Cecotto Jr, starting from the pitlane after stalling and crashing out after just two corners, prompting the first safety car period of the day.
The Monegasque controlled the restart well to keep first place as de Vries overtook Latifi round the outside at Turn 1 while the other PREMA of Antonio Fuoco was losing places left and right until lap seven when Fuoco was attempting to retake his position from Sergio Canamasas and ended up colliding with the Spaniard and crashing out.
The pit stop window meant that Leclerc, Latifi, Matsushita and Rowland pitted for the soft compound with de Vries following suit the next lap while Ghiotto, starting 20th, was now in the lead on the alternate soft/super soft strategy with Boschung and Jeffri who found the wall and prompted a brief VSC period to remove his stricken Trident.
As racing resumed, Leclerc quickly dispatched Boschung for P2 just before another safety car period was deployed when Louis Deletraz found the wall on lap 12, eliminating any chance Ghiotto had of a good result and despite leading at the restart, his race was essentially over when a pit stop problem meant he emerged plumb last and miles away.
Leclerc was now leading with ease as Rowland was charging through and in the back, Gelael, Sirotkin, Malja and Matsushita all vied for P8 in hope of getting reverse-grid pole. When Gelael pushed too hard into Turn 8 he understeered into the exit wall and blocked the track leaving Sirotkin with no where to go but into his Arden, meaning the race had to be stopped on lap 25.
Race control decided to discontinue the race and as per the regulations, the classification was taken from lap 24 with Leclerc winning from de Vries, Latifi, and Rowland whose efforts for a podium were halted by the red flag.
Artem Markelov finished fifth ahead of Nato, King, Boschung and Canamasas as the latter two were still classified in the points despite retiring on lap 25 while Sergey Sirotkin got the final points on his return to the series.
With this victory Leclerc extends his championship lead to 28 points on 108 from Oliver Rowland who has 80 points and Artem Markelov on 72.
Four time penalties and one grid penalty were handed down by the race stewards following today’s FIA Formula 2 Feature Race in Baku, with 3 of the penalties advised during the race and 2 others notified subsequent to the event.
- Sergio Sette Camara, Sean Gelael and Robert Visiou were handed 10 second time penalties during the race after being judged to have failed to sufficiently slow for yellow flags at turns 6 and 7, with the time added on to the preliminary classification at the race’s conclusion.
- Subsequently Oliver Rowland was also handed a 10 second time penalty for also failing to slow for the yellow flags: the Briton, who was initially classified in 4th place, now drops to P7, promoting Artem Markelov to P4 ahead of Norman Nato and Jordan King.
- Johnny Cecotto’s day went from bad to worse: the Venezuelan, who stalled at the start, was pushed into the pitlane and restarted, but picked up a speeding penalty on his escape before finishing his race at turn two. The penalty is for five grid positions, but as he was already last in the classification and cannot drop back Cecotto will now start tomorrow’s Sprint Race from the pitlane.
The sprint race starts on Sunday at 14:00 local time (GMT +4)
Image via FIA Formula 2 Media