Force India reserve driver Nicholas Latifi converted a reversed-grid pole position into a dominant victory in Sunday’s FIA Formula 2 Championship Sprint Race at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

His win ended a poor run of form for the Canadian driver, who had achieved just one podium finish in 2018 to-date. By contrast, his DAMS teammate Alexander Albon has notched up three race wins and is a championship contender.

His imperious drive marked a return to form for Latifi. Having finished eighth in Saturday’s Feature Race won commandingly by PREMA Theodore Racing’s Nyck de Vries, Latifi took a leaf out of the Dutch driver’s book and rocketed off the line at the start to lead the field into La Source.

Fellow front-row starter slotted into second place, while contender for start of the year went to de Vries who rocketed from eighth on the grid into third place by the first corner. Latifi disappeared into the distance and held a 1.2-second lead by the end of the opening lap, with Ghiotto, de Vries, Artem Markelov, Lando Norris and Albon giving chase.

One of the race’s early battles was between Markelov and Norris, with the pair disputing fourth place. Norris tried to pass the Russian Time driver along the Kemmel Straight on Lap 2, but the Renault reserve driver’s defences held firm. Two laps later, however, and Norris was able to slip through with the assistance of DRS, while up ahead de Vries made short work of Ghiotto to slot into second place.

Ghiotto slipped back towards Norris and Markelov, finding himself easily passed by both before the race’s mid-point. A wobble through Raidillon on Lap 10 sllowed Albon past the Campos Racing driver as well.

Despite the cold ambient temperatures, tyre wear was becoming a major concern in what should theoretically have been a non-stop race. With Arden’s Maximilian Günther already forced to make a late pit stop when his rubber ran out, the same concerns were apparent for second-placed de Vries.

The McLaren junior driver has historically shown a poor ability to nurse his tyres and he started to be closed up on by the chasing Norris and Albon, who had managed to overtake – but not pull away from – Markelov.

As the trio of faster cars loomed larger in his mirrors, and the advantage of DRS allowed Norris and Albon to both sweep by at Les Combes on the final lap. Albon was rapid and harrying Norris over the remainder of the lap, but the Englishman’s defences held firm to keep the Thai driver confined to the final step of the podium.

The duo still finished over 10 seconds behind Latifi, while de Vries managed to fend off Markelov for fourth place at the chequered flag. Ghiotto finished sixth in his Campos Racing entry, while championship leader George Russell overcame another very poor start to finish seventh ahead of Arjun Maini.

Although outscored by Russell in Saturday’s Feature Race, Norris’ podium finish helped him close the Drivers’ Championship points’ deficit to his compatriot to just five points.

The next round of the 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship takes place next weekend at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in support of the Italian Grand Prix.

2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of Belgium – Sprint Race Results (18 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. Nicholas Latifi DAMS 18 37:13.659 17
2. Lando Norris uk Carlin Motorsport 18 + 10.402 12
3. Alexander Albon DAMS 18 + 10.766 10
4. Nyck de Vries Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing 18 + 13.210 8
5. Artem Markelov Russian Time 18 + 13.448 6
6. Luca Ghiotto it Campos Vexatec Racing 18 + 22.179 4
7. George Russell uk ART Grand Prix 18 + 23.357 2
8. Arjun Maini in Trident Racing 18 + 31.864 1
9. Sergio Sette Câmara Carlin Motorsport 18 + 33.578
10. Jack Aitken uk ART Grand Prix 18 + 34.567
11. Tadasuke Makino Russian Time 18 + 40.032
12. Ralph Boschung ch MP Motorsport 18 + 40.100
13. Louis Delétraz Charouz Racing System 18 + 42.899
14. Roy Nissany Campos Vexatec Racing 18 + 44.631
15. Alessio Lorandi Trident Racing 18 + 52.568
16. Maximilian Günther de BWT Arden International 18 + 55.304
17. Nirei Fukuzumi BWT Arden International 18 + 59.007
18. Dorian Boccolacci es MP Motorsport 18 + 1:00.115
19. Antonio Fuoco Charouz Racing System 18 + 1:06.936
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Result
DNF. Sean Gelael Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing 2 Mechanical

Championship Points:

  • Points are awarded to the top 8 classified finishers in the Sprint Race on a 15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scale.
  • Nicholas Latifi is awarded an additional 2 championship points for posting the fastest lap of the race by a points’ finisher.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • None

Image via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

Journalist at MotorsportM8
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