Nyck de Vries has claimed the lead of the FIA Formula 2 Championship standings after claiming victory in the Feature Race at Circuit Paul Ricard.

The ART Grand Prix driver made a lightning getaway from fourth on the grid to claim the lead by Turn 1, using the outside line at Turn 1 to sweep past pole-sitter Sérgio Sette Câmara, Guan Yu Zhou and Aitken in a single move. Despite being leapfrogged by Campos Racing’s Jack Aitken during the compulsory pit stop cycle, he clinically overtook the Englishman on his out-lap at the Mistral Chicane and from there on cruised to his third victory in the past four races.

While the race appeared fairly straightforward for de Vries, the Dutch driver had to manage a red flag interruption brought about by five drivers – a quarter of the field – managing to retire on a frenetic opening lap.

PREMA teammates Sean Gelael and Mick Schumacher came together at Turn 3, triggered by Gelael losing control of his car under braking for the right-hander and then short-cutting the corner through the gravel before ploughing into his teammate. Both cars were launched into the air by the force of the impact, with an embarrassed Gelael retiring on the spot while Schumacher limped his terminally damaged car back to the pits.

Further around the lap, de Vries’ teammate Nikita Mazepin and Trident’s Ralph Boschung continued their wretched weekend by coming together at Turn 6 and jointly spinning out of the race. Further around the lap, a fifth retirement came in the form of local driver Dorian Boccolacci who was forced to stop his Campos Racing car on track.

With four cars stranded in various states of disrepair around the circuit, the race was quickly red-flagged with a resumption behind the Safety Car after a 20-minute delay.

De Vries pulled clear of Aitken and Sette Câmara at the restart, but it was the duo behind who took their compulsory pit stops first, switching from the Soft to the Hard tyre. De Vries pitted a lap later in response, but as he rejoined the circuit Aitken swept by into the effective race lead.

While Aitken had been the quicker driver over one lap in qualifying, it looked as though de Vries had his edge in race trim. Within half a lap he was in DRS range and easily swept by Aitken into the lead with an aggressive pass at the Mistral Chicane.

As the pair worked their way by the yet-to-stop runners ahead of them, further behind Sauber Junior driver Callum Ilott was providing his own action. The Briton pulled off a brilliant pass on championship leader Nicholas Latifi’s DAMS before setting about chasing down Campos’ Nobuhara Matsushita.

The Japanese driver proved a tougher task to overtake, dangerously forcing Ilott onto the outside kerbs on the approach to the Signes curve. Ilott tried to retaliate at the next corner, but lost control at the right-hander, clipped Matsushita and spun into retirement.

Having both qualified well down the order, Luca Ghiotto (UNI-Virtuosi) and Jordan King (MP Motorsport) were attempting the seemingly impossible task of trying to make the alternate strategy work. De Vries was rapidly hauling them in and with eight laps to go Ghiotto finally pitted, leaving just King ahead of de Vries.

A rapid pit stop for King saw him rejoin the circuit in seventh place and he quickly overtook Ghiotto to move into sixth place. Ghiotto was struggling on his fresh Soft tyres, and a lap later a clash with Juan Manuel Correa saw him retire with broken steering.

Back in the lead, de Vries stretched his advantage to over seven seconds ahead of Aitken and Sette Câmara, who were waging an enjoyable scrap for second place. Sette Câmara had earlier tried to pass Aitken at the Mistral Chicane, but outbraked himself. Aitken later had a wobble at the same corner, which allowed the Brazilian to close. A lap later and the DAMS driver was through into second place with the help of DRS.

That concluded the podium order. Zhou finished fourth, unable to convert his first front-row start into another top-three finish. The Chinese driver was chased by Latifi, who falls to second in the championship standings and is now 16 points adrift of de Vries who gained two bonus points with the fastest lap of the race.

King finished sixth ahead of Correa and BWT Arden’s Anthoine Hubert, who will start from pole position for Sunday’s reversed-grid race. Matsushita finished ninth and Giuliano Alesi claimed the final point in tenth in his Trident, his first points’ finish of his F2 career.

2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – France Feature Race Final Classification (30 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. Nyck de Vries ART Grand Prix 30 1:15:35.425 27
2. Sérgio Sette Câmara DAMS 30 + 8.388 22
3. Jack Aitken Campos Racing 30 + 9.775 15
4. Guan Yu Zhou UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Racing 30 + 20.153 12
5. Nicholas Latifi DAMS 30 + 22.599 10
6. Jordan King MP Motorsport 30 + 24.131 8
7. Juan Manuel Correa Sauber Junior Team by Charouz 30 + 28.668 6
8. Anthoine Hubert BWT Arden 30 + 29.959 4
9. Nobuharu Matsushita Carlin Motorsport 30 + 32.820 2
10. Giuliano Alesi Trident Racing 30 + 39.757 1
11. Tatiana Calderón BWT Arden 30 + 1:09.371
12. Mahaveer Raghunathan MP Motorsport 29 + 1 lap
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Reason
DNF. Luca Ghiotto UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Racing 24 Accident
NC. Louis Delétraz Carlin Motorsport 22 + 8 laps
DNF. Callum Ilott Sauber Junior Team by Charouz 13 Spin
DNF. Mick Schumacher de Prema Racing 1 Collision
DNF. Dorian Boccolacci Campos Racing 0 Mechanical
DNF. Ralph Boschung Trident Racing 0 Collision
DNF. Nikita Mazepin ART Grand Prix 0 Collision
DNF. Sean Gelael Prema 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.
  • Sérgio Sette Câmara is awarded four bonus championship points for claiming pole position for the Feature Race.
  • Nyck de Vries is awarded two bonus championship points for posting the fastest lap of the Feature Race by a top-ten finisher.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Tatiana Calderón – who provisionally finished in P11 – was issued a 10-second post-race time penalty for two VSC infringements.
  • Mahaveer Raghunathan – who provisionally finished P12 – was issued a 15-second post-race time penalty for three VSC infringements
  • Sean Gelael will be forced to start the France Sprint Race from the pit lane for failing to be in full control of his car and causing an avoidable collision with Mick Schumacher.

Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.