Jack Aitken has given Campos Racing its first Formula 2 Championship race victory after winning an incident-filled Feature Race at the Baku City Circuit.

The F1 feeder championship’s annual visit to Azerbaijan proved to be a chaotic affair once again, with two Safety Car interruptions driving the race to a time-certain finish. Through it all came Aitken, who claimed his first Feature Race victory, with ART Grand Prix’s Nyck de Vries and MP Motorsport’s Jordan King completing the podium positions.

Aitken leapt from eighth on the grid to third on the road by the end of the opening lap, slotting in behind pole-sitter Nobuhara Matsushita after the Carlin Racing driver was jumped by de Vries at the start.

2019 Formula 2 Championship Azerbaijan Feature Race start

Pole-sitter Nobuhara Matsushita was jumped by Nyck de Vries off the line. 

The run to Turn 1 was fraught for a number of drivers. PREMA’s Mick Schumacher dive-bombed championship leader Luca Ghiotto into the left-hander and forced the Italian wide, while behind them Trident Racing teammates Giuliano Alesi and Ralph Boschung collided, leading to the instant retirement of Alesi. Boschung managed to limp back to the pits for repairs but lost a lap in the process.

Alesi’s car was stranded in the middle of the circuit and so the Safety Car was called into action. With restarts having been fraught with danger in previous events at Baku, de Vries took the unusual tactic of holding the field at slow speed until just before the start/finish line before putting the hammer down and pulling away from Matsushita and the rest of the field.

Tragically for Matsushita, his car faltered and slowed on Lap 4. The Japanese driver pulled into the pits while the mechanical issue was rectified, but he lost two laps in the process and was out of contention from that point on.

That left de Vries to continue to build a lead of almost six seconds to Aitken, but that evaporated during the mandatory pit stops with a slow front-left tyre change. The pair re-joined the circuit nose-to-tail, with Aitken snatching the effective race lead at Turn 2. Struggling on his cold tyres, de Vries also fell behind DAMS’ Nicholas Latifi.

A Virtual Safety Car interruption then occurred when Mick Schumacher climbed the exit kerbs at Turn 16 and spun across the track, stalling his PREMA. As the race resumed Aitken was able to build a small cushion, with de Vries quickly regaining his lost place from Latifi.

Another Safety Car interruption came when Guan Yu Zhou crashed his UNI Virtuosi at Turn 1 on Lap 17; the Chinese driver appeared to misjudge his braking behind Juan Manuel Correa and swerved into the barriers to avoid clattering into the American’s car.

Aitken mirrored de Vries’ restart technique but the bunched field behind him triggered more drama as Ghiotto tagged Sérgio Sette Câmara’s DAMS into a spin and contact with the wall, while Louis Delétraz clipped the opposite wall as the drivers ahead swerved in avoidance.

That kept the Safety Car out for a further two laps and this time there was a clean restart. Aitken pulled clear of de Vries, while King stole third place from Latifi with a brave move around the outside of the Canadian at Turn 3.

Aitken’s Campos Racing teammate Dorian Boccolacci finished fifth ahead of Ghiotto, who was later hit with a five-second time penalty for his role in Sette Câmara’s retirement which demoted him to ninth place. That promoted Sean Gelael – who started from the back row of the grid – into sixth ahead of Correa and Nikita Mazepin who both earned the first points’ finishes of their F2 careers. Mazepin will start from pole position for the reversed-grid Sprint Race on Sunday.

2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Azerbaijan Feature Race Final Classification (26 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. Jack Aitken Campos Racing 26 1:02:27.628 27
2. Nyck de Vries ART Grand Prix 26 + 2.221 18
3. Jordan King MP Motorsport 26 + 4.134 15
4. Nicholas Latifi DAMS 26 + 4.604 12
5. Dorian Boccolacci Campos Racing 26 + 9.499 10
6. Sean Gelael Prema Racing 26 + 12.313 8
7. Juan Manuel Correa Sauber Junior Team by Charouz 26 + 13.154 6
8. Nikita Mazepin ART Grand Prix 26 + 13.676 4
9. Luca Ghiotto UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Racing 26 + 14.613 2
10. Anthoine Hubert BWT Arden 26 + 18.200 1
11. Mahaveer Raghunathan MP Motorsport 26 + 29.798
12. Ralph Boschung Trident Racing 26 + 1:00.507
13. Nobuharu Matsushita Carlin Motorsport 25 1 lap behind 4
Driver Team / Entry Laps Reason
DNF. Sérgio Sette Câmara DAMS 19 Collision
DNF. Louis Delétraz Carlin Motorsport 19 Collision
DNF. Calum Ilott Sauber Junior Team by Charouz 18 Mechanical
DNF. Tatiana Calderón BWT Arden 16 Mechanical
DNF. Guan Yu Zhou UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Racing 16 Accident
DNF. Mick Schumacher de Prema Racing 7 Spin
DNF. Giuliano Alesi Trident Racing 0 Collision

Championship Points:

  • Championship points are awarded on the results of the Feature Race’s top-ten finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 sliding scale.
  • Nobuhara Matsushita is awarded four bonus championship points for claiming pole position for the Feature Race.
  • Jack Aitken is awarded two bonus championship points for posting the fastest lap of the Feature Race by a top-ten finisher.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Luca Ghiotto – who was provisionally classified 6th – was issued a 5-second post-race time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Sérgio Sette Câmara.
  • Dorian Boccolacci will serve a two-place grid penalty for the Azerbaijan Sprint Race for failing to enter the pit lane at the end of the Feature Race as instructed by the Race Director.

Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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