The 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship season has its fourth different race-winner in as many races after Mercedes F1 junior George Russell claimed victory in Baku’s Sprint Race.

The new Dallara F2 2018 chassis design, particularly its new Hewland transmissions, continued to cause more dramas. No less than five drivers – a quarter of the field – failed to get off the starting line, with Jack Aitken, Feature Race winner Alex Albon, Artem Markelov, Maximilian Günther and Luca Ghiotto all stranded on the grid when the lights went out.

Former F1 driver Roberto Merhi started from the reversed grid pole alongside MP Motorsport teammate Ralph Boschung, but both had poor getaways with Merhi tumbling down to ninth place.

Sprint Race start - 2018 Formula 2 Championship Race of Azerbaijan

Cars swerve left and right as no less than five drivers stalled at the start, with clutch problems becoming an increasing concern for drivers.

DAMS’ Nicholas Latifi rocketed into the lead from the second row, slotting in ahead of Boschung and championship leader Lando Norris. Incredibly, the trio was overtaken by Norris’ Carlin Motorsport teammate Sergio Sette Câmara, who carved his way by in an impressive opening lap.

The Brazilian pulled away from Latifi over the subsequent laps, who was coming under increasing pressure from Norris once the McLaren junior driver overtook Boschung.

Norris slipstreamed Latifi to overtake the Canadian into Turn 1 at the start of Lap 7, but Latifi held his nerve and reclaimed second place at the next corner.

By now Russell was honing in on the pair of them, and on the next lap he and Norris tried to slipstream around either side of Latifi. Norris outbraked himself at Turn 1 and was forced into the run-off, dropping to seventh place in the process.

Latifi held off Russell, but the ART driver managed to make the move stick on the next lap before setting about chasing down Sette Câmara.

He slashed the Brazilian’s four-second lead, as Sette Câmara showed the pressure he was under by making his own mistake at Turn 1.

By Lap 15 Russell was within DRS range and eventually made his move for the lead of the race three laps later at Turn 1. Sette Câmara gamely hung on and reclaimed the position with a counter-attack at Turn 2.

The pair jostled for position over the remainder of the lap before Russell was able to make the move stick into Turn 1 on the next lap. This time Sette Câmara had no response, allowing Russell to ease out to a 2.6-second lead by the end of the race.

Sette Câmara earned plaudits for finishing in second place – his third podium finish in four races – but the writing was on the wall when his car stopped on its in-lap to the pits. After it failed to deliver the required one-litre fuel sample to the FIA scrutineers, he was disqualified.

That promoted Nyck de Vries – who charged from fourteenth and overtook Latifi on the penultimate lap – into second place, with the Force India reserve driver completing the podium.

Norris recovered to fourth after his earlier mistake, overtaking Merhi and Boschung in the process to extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings to 14 points over Albon.

Merhi and Boschung also fell behind Trident rivals Arjun Maini and Santino Ferrucci, with the Haas F1 Team juniors claiming fifth and sixth respectively ahead of the MP Motorsport pair.

The top ten was completed by Russian Time rookie Tadasuke Makino and Charouz driver Louis Delétraz.

Makino’s teammate Artem Markelov retired with an engine failure, while Campos Racing’s Roy Nissany (for the second time this weekend) and PREMA’s Sean Galeal both retired after separate crashes.

Trident duo Arjun Maini and Santino Ferrucci also passed Merhi and Boschung, who had to settle for eighth and ninth respectively. Russian Time’s Tadasuke Makino completed the top 10.

Makino’s teammate Artem Markelov retired with an engine failure early on with Roy Nissany running off and Sean Gelael hitting the wall at Turn 1.

Antonio Fuoco’s Charouz stopped on the formation lap and Gunther also failed to finish the race.

2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of Azerbaijan – Sprint Race Results (21 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. George Russell uk ART Grand Prix 21 41:32.101 15
2. Nyck de Vries Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing 21 + 4.774 12
3. Nicholas Latifi DAMS 21 + 5.016 10
4. Lando Norris uk Carlin Motorsport 21 + 5.842 8
5. Arjun Maini in Trident Racing 21 + 13.606 6
6. Santino Ferrucci Trident Racing 21 + 19.108 4
7. Roberto Merhi es MP Motorsport 21 + 22.391 2
8. Ralph Boschung ch MP Motorsport 21 + 24.379 1
9. Tadasuke Makino Russian Time 21 + 25.130
10. Louis Delétraz Charouz Racing System 21 + 46.561
11. Jack Aitken uk ART Grand Prix 21 + 1:20.531
12. Nirei Fukuzumi BWT Arden International 21 + 1:27.942
13. Alexander Albon DAMS 21 + 1:33.104
14. Luca Ghiotto it Campos Vexatec Racing 20 + 1 lap
15. Maximilian Günther de BWT Arden International 18 + 3 laps
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Result
DSQ. Sergio Sette Câmara Carlin Motorsport 21 Fuel Sample
DNF. Sean Gelael Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing 11 Accident
DNF. Roy Nissany Campos Vexatec Racing 2 Accident
DNF. Artem Markelov Russian Time 1 Engine
DNS. Antonio Fuoco Charouz Racing System Mechanical

Championship Points:

  • Points were awarded to the top 8 classified finishers in the Sprint Race on a 15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 sliding scale.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Sergio Sette Câmara – who provisionally finished 2nd – was disqualified when his car could not produce the minimum required fuel sample for post-race scrutineering.

Image via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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