George Russell claimed his third race win of the 2018 Formula 2 Championship season in a thrilling wet-dry Feature Race at Paul Ricard, surviving a late charge from Sergio Sette Câmara to claim victory by just over one second from the Brazilian.

The 30-lap race saw light rain begin to fall just before its start and a number of drivers in the 20-car field were spinners over a chaotic sequence of opening laps.

Pole-sitter Russell, along with fellow front-row starter Alexander Albon and Sette Câmara, found the greasy conditions to their liking and quickly scorched away from the rest of the pack. The trio’s lead over the rest of the field had grown to 15 seconds before a Virtual Safety Car was called when Sean Gelael retired after spinning off.

Albon was the first of the leading three drivers to make his compulsory pit stop and he rejoined in seventh place, however the Anglo-Thai driver’s hopes of claiming victory were dashed when his DAMS slowed with a mechanical drama.

Sette Câmara pitted from second place, three seconds behind Russell, but the Englishman was wise to the Carlin driver’s attempt at an undercut and covered the pit stop by switching tyres on the next lap.

George Russell, ART Grand Prix - 2018 Formula 2 Race of France

George Russell claimed a lights-to-flag victory from pole position in a rain-affected Feature Race.

Rejoining in the lead, Russell countered a potential thread by Sette Câmara, who cut the Mistral chicane but was not issued a penalty by the FIA Stewards. Sette Câmara closed on Russell in the final laps and attempted a desperate last-lap lunge at the final corner. He was unable to make the move stick, crossing the finish line just over a second behind Russell who secured his third win of the season to-date.

The battle for what would become the final podium position after Albon’s retirement proved to be hotly contested. Louis Delétraz led the ‘best of the rest’ charge in the early laps but was overtaken by Russell’s teammate Jack Aitken on Lap 3. The Anglo-Korean driver’s run of poor luck continued, however, when the ART Grand Prix driver lost pace.

Delétraz reclaimed the place as Aitken fell down the order, but lost it again when he had a spin at Turn 7.

That promoted Roberto Merhi into the position, with the former F1 driver completing an impressive charge through the field from fourteenth on the grid. The MP Motorsport driver would later, however, be disqualified from the race when it was found all four tyres were below the minimum tyre pressures stipulated by the FIA and Pirelli.

The Spaniard’s disqualification came on the heels of MP Motorsport’s GP3 Series driver Dorian Boccolacci being disqualified from his maiden race win for the same offence.

Merhi’s exclusion promoted Luca Ghiotto – who suffered two spins on the Mistral Straight during the race – to the final podium slot. The Italian finished over half a minute behind the leading two, crossing the line ahead of Antonio Fuoco and Nyck de Vries.

Fuoco also struck trouble during the race. The Italian driver served a 10-second stop/go penalty for having a Charouz Racing System team member on the grid inside 15 seconds of the warm-up lap starting when he stalled his car on the dummy grid.

Delétraz finished seventh – which later became sixth after Merhi’s disqualification – while Nicholas Latifi had an untidy race in his DAMS and won out in an exciting last-lap battle against Tadasuke Makino, who secured the reversed grid pole position for Sunday’s Sprint Race. The final points positions went to Arden’s Nirei Fukuzumi and Arjun Maini.

Aitken finished out of the points after gambling on wet-weather tyres in the early stages, an unsuccessful strategy call also made by Roy Nissany, Maximilian Günther and championship leader Lando Norris.

Norris’ race was an absolute disaster. The Carlin driver stalled, along with Artem Markelov, on the grid and he was completely out of contention from that point on. With his compatriot Russell securing a hefty 29 points, Norris’ overall lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings has been slashed to just seven points.

Sunday’s 21-lap Sprint Race takes place at 12:00 local time (GMT +2).

2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of France – Feature Race Results (30 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. George Russell uk ART Grand Prix 30 58:28.750 29
2. Sergio Sette Câmara Carlin Motorsport 30 + 1.108 20
3. Luca Ghiotto it Campos Vexatec Racing 30 + 37.879 15
4. Antonio Fuoco Charouz Racing System 30 + 43.665 12
5. Nyck de Vries Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing 30 + 45.680 10
6. Louis Delétraz Charouz Racing System 30 + 53.226 8
7. Nicholas Latifi DAMS 30 + 1:16.951 6
8. Tadasuke Makino Russian Time 30 + 1:17.343 4
9. Nirei Fukuzumi BWT Arden International 30 + 1:20.381 2
10. Arjun Maini in Trident Racing 30 + 1:30.605 1
11. Jack Aitken uk ART Grand Prix 30 + 1:32.649
12. Maximilian Günther de BWT Arden International 30 + 1:37.662
13. Santino Ferrucci Trident Racing 29 1 lap behind
14. Artem Markelov Russian Time 29 1 lap behind
15. Roy Nissany Campos Vexatec Racing 29 1 lap behind
16. Lando Norris uk Carlin Motorsport 29 1 lap behind
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Result
DNF. Alexander Albon DAMS 18 Mechanical
DNF. Ralph Boschung ch MP Motorsport 12 Engine
DNF. Sean Gelael Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing 7 Spin
DSQ. Roberto Merhi es MP Motorsport Tyre Pressure

Championship Points:

  • Points are awarded to the top 10 classified finishers in the Feature Race on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scale.
  • George Russell is awarded an additional 4 championship points for claiming pole position.
  • Sergio Sette Câmara is awarded an additional 2 championship points for posting the fastest lap of the race by a top ten finisher.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Roberto Merhi – who was provisionalled classified in third place – was disqualified when his car was found to be in breach of the Technical Regulations (minimum tyre pressures).

Image via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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