George Russell is the Formula 2 Championship’s first multiple race-winner of the 2018 season, claiming victory in a thrilling Feature Race punctuated by no less than four Virtual Safety Car periods.

The Mercedes protégé took the lead from a fast-starting Nyck de Vries and fended off the Dutch driver’s attacks to move to second overall in the Drivers’ Championship standings behind Lando Norris, who finished the race in third place.

Russell’s win was temporarily under a cloud when the Englishman was seen throwing his drinks bottle from his car during one of the VSC periods. The bottle had come loose from its mounting, and after driving with it placed between his legs for three laps, Russell elected to jettison it while car speeds were reduced.

Russell was instead fined €3,000 and handed a penalty point on his FIA racing license.

Saturday’s race got underway with de Vries launching into the lead after jumping a slow-starting pole-sitter Alexander Albon off the line. Albon was also overtaken by Russell and Luca Ghiotto before Turn 1, but just seconds later the race was temporarily suspended by a Virtual Safety Car so the marshals could retrieve Maximilian Günther’s BWT Arden from the Turn 2 gravel trap.

2018 Formula 2 Championship - Spain Feature Race start

Pole-sitter Albon dropped to fourth behind de Vries, Russell and Ghiotto thanks to a slow start.

The race was resumed on Lap 4 and Albon quickly attacked Ghiotto and moved into third place with a neat move on the Italian driver at Turn 1. Championship leader Norris was hot on their heels in fifth, while up in front de Vries and Russell battled for the lead.

Russell caught de Vries’ slipstream at the end of Lap 5 and used DRS assistance to pass the PREMA Racing driver down the start/finish straight.

The two MP Motorsport drivers, Ralph Boschung and Roberto Merhi, triggered the race’s second VSC just seconds later. The pair made contact battling for twelfth place, with Boschung retiring after finding the barriers while Merhi skulked back to the pits with damage to his car.

The race resumed on Lap 8 and it was Albon now pressuring de Vries, with the Anglo-Thai driver passing de Vries for second place two laps later.

Albon set after Russell but his charge was temporarily slowed by another VSC caused by Trident’s Arjun Maini crashing out at the exit of Turn 5.

The green flags were out on Lap 14 and shortly after the drivers who started the race on thew Soft Pirelli tyres were making their way to the pits to complete their compulsory pit stop.

Russell, de Vries and Albon – who all started on the Medium tyres – pressed on, but it was Albon whose tyres started to show signs of fatigue as he was repassed by de Vries for second place.

Albon appeared to miss radio calls from his team urging him to pit and switch to Soft tyres, and his delayed tour through pit lane meant he was jumped by Norris and Jack Aitken who had pitted earlier.

Russell and de Vries pitted shortly after, running nose-to-tail into pit lane and emerging in the same order on fresh Soft tyres.

A fourth Virtual Safety Car interruption came with a collision between PREMA’s Sean Gelael and Charouz’s Louis Delétraz at Turn 1 – for which the latter was rightly handed a five-place grid penalty.

The race lead was held by Russian Time driver Artem Markelov and the sole BWT Arden of Nirei Fukuzumi. Having started from the back row of the grid, Markelov was once again putting in another superb display of tyre management as he sought to work his way into an eventual points’ finish, while Fukuzumi was forced onto a contra-strategy when he was pushed off-track during the chaotic opening lap and fell to last place.

The pair pitted at the end of Lap 32 when the race was resumed, and with a time-certain finish cutting the race’s original 37-lap distance short, both would hope to use their much fresher tyres to make up ground before the chequered flag.

Their pit stops promoted Russell and de Vries back into first and second positions. De Vries tried to attack one last time and sent a move up the inside of Russell at the Turn 5 left-hander. Wise to him carrying far too much speed, Russell left the door open and tucked back inside as the McLaren junior driver ran wide.

As Norris once again closed on the duo, Russell was able to open up just enough of a gap to thwart any final challenge over the remaining laps. De Vries held on to finish 0.7 seconds clear of Norris and claim second place.

Ghiotto finished in fourth, while Albon’s fresher tyres help him work up to fifth place by the chequered flag after his pit stop bungle.

An alternate strategy helped Aitken finish in sixth ahead of Sergio Sette Câmara. Markelov’s late pit stop and hard-charging final laps saw him overtake teammate Tadasuke Makino to claim eighth place and the reversed-grid pole position for Sunday’s Sprint Race.

After the Russian’s incredible stint of 32 laps on the Medium tyre, he will be a formidable opponent in Sunday’s 26-lap Sprint Race which gets underway at 11:30 local time (GMT +2).

2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of Spain – Feature Race Results (36 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. George Russell uk ART Grand Prix 36 1:02:58.902 25
2. Nyck de Vries Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing 36 + 1.036 18
3. Lando Norris uk Carlin Motorsport 36 + 1.760 15
4. Luca Ghiotto it Campos Vexatec Racing 36 + 5.714 12
5. Alexander Albon DAMS 36 + 6.098 14
6. Jack Aitken uk ART Grand Prix 36 + 8.214 8
7. Sergio Sette Câmara Carlin Motorsport 36 + 9.830 8
8. Artem Markelov Russian Time 36 + 20.857 4
9. Tadasuke Makino Russian Time 36 + 23.950 2
10. Antonio Fuoco Charouz Racing System 36 + 25.289 1
11. Nirei Fukuzumi BWT Arden International 36 + 29.150
12. Roy Nissany Campos Vexatec Racing 36 + 36.719
13. Roberto Merhi es MP Motorsport 36 + 58.771
14. Nicholas Latifi DAMS 35 1 lap behind
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Result
DNF. Sean Gelael Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing 27 Collision
DNF. Louis Delétraz Charouz Racing System 27 Collision
DNF. Arjun Maini in Trident Racing 10 Accident
DNF. Ralph Boschung ch MP Motorsport 5 Collision
DNF. Maximilian Günther de BWT Arden International 0 Collision
DNS. Santino Ferrucci Trident Racing 0 Clutch

Championship Points:

  • Points were awarded to the top 10 classified finishers in the Feature Race on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scale.
  • Alexander Albon is awarded an additional 4 championship points for claiming pole position.
  • Artem Markelov is awarded an additional 2 championship points for posting the fastest lap of the race by a top ten finisher.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Louis Delétraz was handed a five grid place position penalty for Sunday’s Sprint Race for causing a collision with Sean Gelael on Lap 28.

Image via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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