Charles Leclerc has ended his Formula 2 Championship career in fitting style by claiming a stunning last-lap victory at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The Ferrari-backed driver charged from seventh on the grid and overtook Alexander Albon on the final lap of a thrilling race to deny the Thai driver his maiden Formula 2 race win.
After running three-wide through the fast right-hander at Turn 3 on the opening lap to move into sixth place, Leclerc then overtook Jordan King and Nyck de Vries to move into fourth.
Albon, meanwhile, had moved into the lead from second place on the grid and ran ahead of Nicholas Latifi and Nobuhara Matsushita with Leclerc charging hard a further four seconds adrift.
Matsushita was his next target, and after disposing of the Japanese driver he quickly closed up to Latifi and passed the Canadian with ease.
Albon was now his sole obstacle to victory and with four laps to go the pair ran nose-to-tail with an increasingly desperate Albon doing everything he could to keep his former GP3 Series teammate at bay.
Aiding his cause were yellow flags on the run to Turn 11 which helped deactivate the circuit’s second DRS zone.
On the final lap Leclerc was right under Albon’s rear wing and closing in for the kill. The Monegasque driver nudged Albon at the Turn 6 hairpin which compromised his exit.
That gave Leclerc the momentum to move alongside Albon down the back straight, with the pair coming close to touching side-by-side as Albon tried to squeeze his opponent.
Leclerc remained committed, forcing Albon to give a car’s width space and the inside line for the Turn 7/8 chicane. There was nothing that Albon could do thereafter except admit that he had been beaten by the best driver to grace Formula 1’s feeder championship since Lewis Hamilton.
Latifi claimed the final podium spot ahead of Matsushita, while Luca Ghiotto secured fifth after overtaking Russian Time teammate Artem Markelov at mid-distance.
Markelov managed to hold off his Feature Race rival Oliver Rowland, who charged from the back of the grid to seventh after he was stripped of his victory in Saturday night’s race.
Rowland’s recovery drive came thanks to a mighty opening lap that saw him rocket to thirteenth place.
Sergio Sette Câmara, in his final race with MP Motorsport before he moves to Carlin Motorsport next year, claimed eighth place and the final championship point on offer.
|2017 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of Abu Dhabi – Final Sprint Race Results (22 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Charles Leclerc||PREMA Racing||22||41:36.188|
|2.||Alexander Albon||ART Grand Prix||22||+ 1.293|
|3.||Nicholas Latifi||DAMS||22||+ 3.207|
|4.||Nobuharu Matsushita||ART Grand Prix||22||+ 4.105|
|5.||Luca Ghiotto||Russian Time||22||+ 4.952|
|6.||Artem Markelov||Russian Time||22||+ 14.758|
|7.||Oliver Rowland||DAMS||22||+ 15.446|
|8.||Sergio Sette Câmara||MP Motorsport||22||+ 24.795|
|9.||Nyck de Vries||Racing Engineering||22||+ 29.261|
|10.||Roberto Merhi||Rapax||22||+ 29.689|
|11.||Antonio Fuoco||PREMA Racing||22||+ 29.912|
|12.||Álex Palou||Campos Racing||22||+ 30.999|
|13.||Lando Norris||Campos Racing||22||+ 31.564|
|14.||Sean Gelael||Pertamina Arden||22||+ 38.714|
|15.||Santino Ferrucci||Trident||22||+ 39.605|
|16.||Nabil Jeffri||Trident||22||+ 43.310|
|17.||Gustav Malja||Racing Engineering||22||+ 49.659|
|18.||Norman Nato||Pertamina Arden||19||Retired|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Jordan King||MP Motorsport||18||Retired|
Image via FIA Formula 2 Championship