The 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship celebrated its fifth different race winner in the season’s first six races. Jack Aitken claimed victory in an action-packed Sprint Race in Barcelona ahead of DAMS’ Alexander Albon and Carlin’s Lando Norris.
Following ART teammate George Russell’s victory in Saturday’s exciting Feature Race, it was the turn of Aitken to give the former GP2 Series champions a double celebration on Sunday.
Starting from the second row for the reversed-grid race, Aitken launched into the lead as the lights went out as pole-sitter Artem Markelov fluffed his getaway.
It was a wild opening lap. PREMA Racing’s Nyck de Vries ran wide at Turn 4 and was followed in sympathy by local driver Roberto Merhi in his MP Motorsport entry.
Aitken kept his head and held a 3.3-second lead over Sergio Sette Câmara by the end of the opening lap around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya before the race was neutralised by its first Virtual Safety Car when de Vries went off again, this time spinning his car at Turn 10.
The race resumed and Sette Câmara threw away his grip on second place by running wide at the same corner to allow Albon and Norris through. Aitken’s canny sector times during the VSC and the early stages of the restart allowed him to extend his lead to almost 12 seconds.
Decry it as an eyesore on open-wheel racing, but the Halo cockpit protection system perhaps saved its first life in Sunday’s race. Japanese drivers Tadasuke Makino and Nirei Fukuzumi tangled at Turn 3, with the latter’s BWT Arden mounting the former’s Russian Time entry as they locked wheels. Fukuzumi’s car came within inches of Makino’s head and were it not for the Halo the outcome could have been frighteningly different.
The full Safety Car interruption their accident triggered obliterated Aitken’s lead, but he managed the restart to perfection and bolted away once more to leave Albon having to defend from Norris’ attacks.
Despite briefly running wide and allowing the Albon-Norris battle to draw near once more, Aitken punched out a series of quick laps to eke out a lead. Further behind, Sette Câmara retired his Carlin with a mechanical issue that triggered another brief VSC period so his stranded car could be retrieved.
Aitken pulled away again from Albon when the race was restarted on Lap 15, and now it was Norris’ turn to come under attack, this time from Luca Ghiotto. Despite running in DRS range, the Italian could not get close enough to attempt a pass on the championship leader.
Ghiotto himself came under pressure from Saturday race-winner George Russell, who pulled himself into DRS range and overtook the Campos Racing driver to claim fourth place on Lap 20.
A third Virtual Safety Car was triggered by Ralph Boschung, who notched up back-to-back retirements with a puncture. The Swiss driver tried to pass Santino Ferrucci’s Trident but only succeeded in flat-spotting his tyre down to the canvas with a clumsy lock-up.
The race resumed once more and despite Albon managing to close down Aitken’s lead to the tune of more than a second, there wasn’t enough time or laps to mount a final attack.
Norris claimed third place to consolidate his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings, finishing ahead of Russell who picked up two bonus championship points by posting the fastest lap.
Ghiotto finished fifth ahead of Sean Gelael – who put in a succession of overtaking moves during the race – while Antonio Fuoco and Nicholas Latifi claimed the final points places.
The fourth round of the 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship takes place at the Monaco Grand Prix on 24-26 May.
|2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of Spain – Sprint Race Results (26 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Jack Aitken||ART Grand Prix||26||45:21.511||15|
|2.||Alexander Albon||DAMS||26||+ 1.550||12|
|3.||Lando Norris||Carlin Motorsport||26||+ 2.864||10|
|4.||George Russell||ART Grand Prix||26||+ 8.106||10|
|5.||Luca Ghiotto||Campos Vexatec Racing||26||+ 11.109||6|
|6.||Sean Gelael||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||26||+ 13.702||4|
|7.||Antonio Fuoco||Charouz Racing System||26||+ 14.837||2|
|8.||Nicholas Latifi||DAMS||26||+ 28.678||1|
|9.||Artem Markelov||Russian Time||26||+ 29.065|
|10.||Louis Delétraz||Charouz Racing System||26||+ 29.437|
|11.||Santino Ferrucci||Trident Racing||26||+ 30.996|
|12.||Maximilian Günther||BWT Arden International||26||+ 32.428|
|13.||Arjun Maini||Trident Racing||26||+ 33.236|
|14.||Roy Nissany||Campos Vexatec Racing||26||+ 35.672|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Roberto Merhi||MP Motorsport||22||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Ralph Boschung||MP Motorsport||20||Puncture|
|DNF.||Sergio Sette Câmara||Carlin Motorsport||12||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Tadasuke Makino||Russian Time||4||Collision|
|DNF.||Nirei Fukuzumi||BWT Arden International||4||Collision|
|DNF.||Nyck de Vries||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||1||Spin|
Points were awarded to the top 8 classified finishers in the Sprint Race on a 15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scale.
George Russell is awarded an additional 2 championship points for posting the fastest lap of the race by a top ten finisher.
Image via FIA Formula 2 Championship
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