Nyck de Vries dominated to claim victory in an exciting Formula 2 Championship Feature Race at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, the youngster’s third win of an impressive 2018 season.
In what is the nearest equivalent to his home race, the Dutch driver managed tyre wear, traffic and a late Safety Car interruption to lead home Sergio Sette Câmara and championship leader George Russell.
After securing his first Formula 2 pole position on Friday, the McLaren junior driver made a clean getaway at the start and rocketed away from the chasing pack in the early laps to the tune of almost a second per lap.
Sette Câmara slotted into second place at La Source thanks to a wheel-spinning start by Russell off the front row, leaving the Mercedes junior driver in third place. Behind the pair, there was a frantic run up to Les Combes on the opening lap, with Lando Norris, Alexander Albon and Luca Ghiotto running three-wide down the Kemmel Straight. Norris prevailed to claim fourth, while an enterprising Antonio Fuoco swept around Albon and Ghiotto in a single move at Les Combes to snatch an early fifth place.
De Vries pulled out a hefty two-second lead by the end of the first lap and continued to open up this gap while positions chopped and changed in the midfield. Albon initially struggled with a lack of straight-line speed in his DAMS and was quickly passed by Ghiotto and Nirei Fukuzumi.
Further behind, Artem Markelov had to make his alternate (Medium-Soft) tyre strategy work and began to pick off those ahead of him with a succession of his signature overtaking moves. He lunged past Albon at the start of Lap 4 and shortly afterwards he picked off Fukuzumi and then Ghiotto with late lunges into the Bus Stop chicane.
With those who started on Soft compound tyres starting to experience high tyre wear, the first of the frontrunners headed for the pits at the end of Lap 8. Championship rivals Russell and Norris switched to the more durable Mediums for the run home and emerged in the same order, while Sette Câmara – now trailing de Vries by 7.5 seconds – covered them by pitting a lap later.
De Vries made his compulsory tyre change at the end of the tenth lap and was left thanking his early race pace. A slot pit stop saw him re-emerge from pit lane behind a host of drivers yet to pit, and with his out-lap compromised by traffic his advantage over Sette Câmara was slashed to barely one second in the space of a lap.
The yet-to-stop Markelov now held the lead but was unable to extend enough of a margin over effective race leader de Vries by the time he pulled into the pits at the end of Lap 14.
Moments later, Fukuzumi pulled off the track at the exit of Blanchimont with an engine failure which quickly turned into a spectacular fire. That prompted the Safety Car to make its sole appearance of the race, forcing the remaining runners to pit and the field to bunch up behind de Vries and Sette Câmara.
The race resumed on Lap 19 with de Vries and Sette Câmara pulling clear of the battling Russell and Norris, who threatened to swap positions on the run to Les Combes before Russell held out.
Further behind, the seemingly recovered Albon dispatched Ghiotto for fifth place. Markelov, now on the grippy Soft tyres, quickly dispensed with Louis Delétraz on the following lap at La Source and honed up to the back of Ghiotto.
Further behind, Ralph Boschung became the race’s second and final retiree when he parked his car along the barriers at the exit of Rivage. The furious Swiss driver threw his steering wheel from the cockpit of his MP Motorsport entry in frustration.
Up front, Sette Câmara edged towards de Vries but the Brazilian’s hopes of claiming back-to-back victories were in vain when the PREMA Theodore Racing driver was able to increase his pace and extend his lead to a 3.1-second margin of victory.
Russell similarly managed to pull clear of Norris to extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship over his British countryman from 12 points to 15.
Albon claimed fifth place, while sixth place went in Markelov’s favour in a photo finish over Ghiotto after he passed the Italian around the outside of the Bus Stop chicane on the final lap.
Albon’s teammate Nicholas Latifi claimed eighth place and the reversed grid pole for Sunday’s Sprint Race, with Maximilian Günther finishing ninth in the sole BWT Arden. Roy Nissany finally broke through to claim his first points’ finish in tenth.
|2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of Belgium – Feature Race Results (25 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Nyck de Vries||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||25||56:02.281||31|
|2.||Sergio Sette Câmara||Carlin Motorsport||25||+ 3.153||18|
|3.||George Russell||ART Grand Prix||25||+ 7.572||15|
|4.||Lando Norris||Carlin Motorsport||25||+ 8.906||12|
|5.||Alexander Albon||DAMS||25||+ 9.408||10|
|6.||Artem Markelov||Russian Time||25||+ 13.181||8|
|7.||Luca Ghiotto||Campos Vexatec Racing||25||+ 13.211||6|
|8.||Nicholas Latifi||DAMS||25||+ 14.674||4|
|9.||Maximilian Günther||BWT Arden International||25||+ 15.915||2|
|10.||Roy Nissany||Campos Vexatec Racing||25||+ 22.354||1|
|11.||Jack Aitken||ART Grand Prix||25||+ 23.917|
|12.||Tadasuke Makino||Russian Time||25||+ 24.477|
|13.||Alessio Lorandi||Trident Racing||25||+ 26.417|
|14.||Arjun Maini||Trident Racing||25||+ 28.920|
|15.||Dorian Boccolacci||MP Motorsport||25||+ 29.612|
|16.||Sean Gelael||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||25||+ 32.482|
|17.||Antonio Fuoco||Charouz Racing System||25||+ 32.706|
|18.||Louis Delétraz||Charouz Racing System||25||+ 34.112|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Ralph Boschung||MP Motorsport||18||Accident|
|DNF.||Nirei Fukuzumi||BWT Arden International||13||Engine||1|
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.
Nyck de Vries is awarded an additional 4 championship points for claiming pole position.
Nyck de Vries 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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