Anthoine Hubert has capped off a remarkable turnaround in his and the BWT Arden team’s fortunes at the Circuit Paul Ricard with victory in Sunday’s Formula 2 Championship Sprint Race.
Hubert, a winner of the previous Sprint Race in Monte Carlo, became the first French driver to win a Formula 2 race on home soil. The Renault academy driver led home an all-rookie podium, with Sauber Junior Team’s Juan Manuel Correa finishing second and UNI-Virtuosi’s Guan Yu Zhou in third.
Rewind two days and the likelihood of Hubert being anywhere near the podium looked bleak at best. The 22-year-old had troubles in practice and qualified a lowly 15th-fastest, however a strong drive to eighth in the attrition-hit Feature Race on Saturday gave him the reversed-grid pole for Sunday’s Sprint Race.
Hubert’s sternest challenge came just seconds after the starting lights went out. Campos Racing’s Jack Aitken made a storming getaway and sprinted down the outside of the start/finish straight, snatching second place and threatening Hubert who had converted pole into the early lead.
Former championship leader Nicholas Latifi had made a similarly decent getaway to slot into third ahead of Correa, while new points leader and Feature Race winner Nyck de Vries had no such luck and lost one spot from his eighth place on the grid.
Aitken fought hard to remain in touch with Hubert over the opening two laps to stay within DRS range once it was enabled. Behind him, Correa reclaimed third place from Latifi, who then locked up and lost fourth to Zhou.
Aitken briefly looked to challenge Hubert, but opted instead to bide his time, preserve his tyres and wait until later in the race – it was a decision he would regret. Failing to spot a fast-closing Correa in his mirrors, the Englishman suddenly came under assault by the American youngster and lost second place at the Mistral Chicane.
Zhou then moved ahead shortly after, leaving him to defend fourth place from the DAMS duo of Latifi and Sérgio Sette Câmara. The teammates battled hard with each other, with Sette Câmara launching an attack on the Canadian at Signes. Latifi attempted to fight back and briefly reclaimed the position, only for the Brazilian to make the move stick.
Up front, Hubert kept his cool, managing his tyre wear and lap speed to maintain a two-second lead over Correa. Zhou remained in touch, but the top-three ran in that order until the chequered flag, with Hubert delighting a patriotic crowd as he crossed the finish line.
Aitken hung on to finish fourth ahead of Sette Câmara and Latifi, with the latter taking some relief by reducing the points’ gap to de Vries who failed to finish in the points at all.
The race was one of those curiously anonymous drives that has been patchy hallmark for de Vries and something he will desperately need to stamp out if he is to mount a proper title challenge. The ART Grand Prix driver briefly moved into the points with passes on Nobuharu Matsushita and Jordan King, but was then overtaken by Louis Delétraz, and Callum Ilott. Matsushita would also get by on the final lap, demoting the Dutch driver to tenth.
De Vries nonetheless maintains the lead of the Drivers’ Championship on 121 points, but now holds a slender 12-point margin to Latifi (109 points) with Aitken (85) a distant third ahead of Sette Câmara (80) and the field’s best-placed rookie Zhou (76). In the Teams’ Championship standings DAMS (189 points) continue to hold a comfortable lead over UNI-Virtuosi (143), ART Grand Prix (127), Campos Racing (115) and Carlin (66).
The Formula 2 Championship will stage its sixth round of the season next weekend at the Red Bull Ring.
|2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – France Sprint Race Final Classification (21 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Anthoine Hubert||BWT Arden||21||37:19.524||15|
|2.||Juan Manuel Correa||Sauber Junior Team by Charouz||21||+ 2.202||12|
|3.||Guan Yu Zhou||UNI Virtuosi Racing||21||+ 4.220||10|
|4.||Jack Aitken||Campos Racing||21||+ 6.131||8|
|5.||Sérgio Sette Câmara||DAMS||21||+ 7.788||6|
|6.||Nicholas Latifi||DAMS||21||+ 10.795||4|
|7.||Louis Delétraz||Carlin Motorsport||21||+ 13.122||2|
|8.||Callum Ilott||Sauber Junior Team by Charouz||21||+ 15.407||1|
|9.||Nobuharu Matsushita||Carlin Motorsport||21||+ 16.200||2|
|10.||Nyck de Vries||ART Grand Prix||21||+ 17.688|
|11.||Jordan King||MP Motorsport||21||+ 21.094|
|12.||Luca Ghiotto||UNI Virtuosi Racing||21||+ 26.254|
|13.||Dorian Boccolacci||Campos Racing||21||+ 27.068|
|14.||Giuliano Alesi||Trident Racing||21||+ 31.977|
|15.||Ralph Boschung||Trident Racing||21||+ 33.601|
|16.||Nikita Mazepin||ART Grand Prix||21||+ 33.853|
|17.||Sean Gelael||Prema Racing||21||+ 34.431|
|18.||Mahaveer Raghunathan||MP Motorsport||21||+ 1:13.453|
|19.||Tatiana Calderón||BWT Arden||18||Spin|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Mick Schumacher||Prema Racing||14||Handling|
- Championship points are awarded on the results of the Sprint Race’s top-eight finishers on a 15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 sliding scale.
- Nobuhara Matsushita is awarded two bonus championship points for posting the fastest lap of the Sprint Race by a top-ten finisher.
Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship