George Russell has won the 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship title with a race to spare after claiming his seventh win of the season in the Abu Dhabi Feature Race.

The Mercedes junior driver and future Williams F1 rookie claimed pole position in Friday night’s qualifying session to earn a vital four championship points which meant he needed to finish eighth or better to guarantee the title would be his.

The only man who could deny him the title, DAMS’ Alexander Albon, started from eighth on the grid and stalled as the starting lights went out. Bizarrely, the Thai driver’s teammate Nicholas Latifi was also stranded on the starting grid and was first clipped by Arden’s Nirei Fukuzumi and then collected at unabated speed by Trident’s Arjun Maini.

The contact sent debris flying and forced FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting to duck for cover as shards of bodywork came flying towards his elevated starting booth. All three drivers were out on the spot and thankfully uninjured.

Nicholas Latifi, DAMS - 2018 Formula 2 Race of Abu Dhabi

A start-line collision between Nicholas Latifi and Arjun Maini saw both drivers’ badly damaged cars stranded on the start/finish straight, leading to a Safety Car. Meanwhile, Latifi’s teammate Alexander Albon saw his slim championship hopes evaporate when he stalled as the lights went out.

In all the mayhem it was barely noticed that Russell had himself made a poor getaway and dropped to second place behind PREMA’s Nyck de Vries.

The race was neutralised behind the Safety Car so the wrecked cars of Maini and Latifi could be cleared off the starting grid. This allowed Albon to be recovered into the pits to start his car and reclaim the lap he lost, but when the race resumed he was still half a lap adrift of the pack and would need a miracle to keep his slim title ambitions alive.

Russell briefly challenged de Vries for the lead after the restart – the pair almost made contact at the Turn 9 chicane – before he then came under pressure from third-placed Artem Markelov.

On Lap 8, Russell made his compulsory pit stop and switched from Supersoft to Soft tyres. De Vries pitted a lap later in response and while he emerged from the pits ahead of Russell, the Englishman breezed past into the effective race lead at Turn 5.

Markelov followed suit by pitting on Lap 10, rejoining in an effective third place behind Russell and de Vries. Campos Racing’s Luca Ghiotto stayed out on track and inherited the race lead; the Italian managed to extend his lead on Soft tyres as the race progressed.

Ghiotto looked to be a dark horse for victory, but he was issued a five-second time penalty for cutting the track and gaining an advantage. When he eventually pitted, he served the penalty and rejoined the race in fifth place.

De Vries yet again found himself over-wearing his tyres and fell off Russell’s pace in the final laps before he was passed by both Markelov and a charging Ghiotto.

Russell was left out front to stoke it home and secure the championship title, winning for a record-equaling seventh time from Markelov by 3.3 seconds with Ghiotto completing the podium. De Vries finished fourth ahead of early championship leader Lando Norris, who had briefly run ahead of Markelov at the mid-point of the race only for his pace to drop off as well.

Charouz Racing System teammates Louis Delétraz and Antonio Fuoco finished sixth and seventh respectively, while Roberto Merhi claimed eighth in the second Campos entry to secure the reversed-grid pole position for Sunday’s Sprint Race.

Tadasuke Makino (Russian Time) and Russell’s teammate Jack Aitken completed the points-scoring positions in ninth and tenth. Series debutante Dan Ticktum finished eleventh in his maiden Formula 2 outing, while a disappointed Albon could manage no better than fourteenth by the chequered flag.

2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of Abu Dhabi – Feature Race Results (29 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. George Russell uk ART Grand Prix 29 1:03:33.863 29
2. Artem Markelov Russian Time 29 + 3.301 18
3. Luca Ghiotto it Campos Vexatec Racing 29 + 8.283 17
4. Nyck de Vries Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing 29 + 12.046 12
5. Lando Norris uk Carlin Motorsport 29 + 19.050 10
6. Louis Delétraz Charouz Racing System 29 + 21.964 8
7. Antonio Fuoco Charouz Racing System 29 + 23.633 6
8. Roberto Merhi es Campos Vexatec Racing 29 + 27.375 4
9. Tadasuke Makino Russian Time 29 + 27.840 2
10. Jack Aitken uk ART Grand Prix 29 + 32.786 1
11. Dan Ticktum uk BWT Arden International 29 + 42.485
12. Dorian Boccolacci es MP Motorsport 29 + 46.303
13. Alessio Lorandi Trident Racing 29 + 47.809
14. Alexander Albon DAMS 29 + 57.571
15. Niko Kari fi MP Motorsport 29 + 1:10.190
16. Sergio Sette Câmara Carlin Motorsport 29 + 1:10.766
17. Sean Gelael Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing 29 + 1:29.971
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Result
DNF. Nicholas Latifi DAMS 0 Collision
DNF. Nirei Fukuzumi BWT Arden International 0 Collision
DNF. Arjun Maini in Trident Racing 0 Collision

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.
  • Luca Ghiotto is awarded an additional 2 championship points for posting the fastest lap of the race by a points’ finisher.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • None

Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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