Luca Ghiotto claimed a hard-fought victory in the Formula 2 Championship Feature Race at Silverstone, coming out on top in a tense mid-race duel with Nicholas Latifi.

The Italian has had a reputation as something of a ‘nearly man’ in Formula 1’s official feeder series, but went some way to shaking off that reputation with a fine drive. He got the jump on pole-sitting UNI-Virtuosi teammate Guan Yu Zhou at the start despite being on the dirty side of the grid, and warded off any threat from the Chinese driver until the mandatory pit stops.

Despite not having the advantage of track position over his teammate, it was Zhou who was the first to pit as soon as the mandatory pit window opened. Hot on his heels was Nicholas Latifi, who had lost out to DAMS teammate Sergio Sette Câmara in a frantic wheel-to-wheel battle in the opening laps. Given the pair had come to blows only a fortnight before in Austria, it was tense viewing on the DAMS pit wall.

A slow stop by the UNI-Virtuosi crew allowed Latifi to get the jump on the Renault academy driver, giving the Canadian a clear out-lap to build tyre temperature in the hope he could undercut Ghiotto when he made his pit stop a lap later.

Ghiotto’s pit lane service went better than his teammate’s and with just enough margin in hand, he emerged from the pits just in front of Latifi. The Italian’s tyres were still cold, however, and he was quickly under assault by the Williams reserve driver. The pair slipstreamed down the Wellington Straight, with Ghiotto just managing to hold on into Brooklands.

A lap later, Latifi tried the same move and as Ghiotto held the dirtier inside line on approach to the left-hander, he locked up heavily and drifted wide. It was all the invitation Latifi needed to slip through for the effective race lead.

Within two laps, however, Ghiotto’s tyres were up to temperature and with better grip than Latifi he made his move with a late lunge into Stowe to retake the position. A succession of quick laps helped him pull clear of Latifi, propelling him to his third career win in Formula 2 and his first in a Feature Race.

Latifi tried to rally in the final laps in the hope of claiming the two bonus points on offer for the race’s fastest lap (the honour went to teammate Sette Câmara in the end) but the result was nonetheless a welcome boost to a championship challenge that had flagged over the preceding three rounds in Monaco, France and Austria.

Zhou finished third, claiming his fourth F2 podium of his rookie season, holding off a resurgent Sette Câmara in the closing laps.

Just like he had in Austria, championship leader Nyck de Vries’ pace fell away in the final laps in a weekend where the Dutch driver has been off-song. The ART Grand Prix driver eventually lost fifth place to Campos Racing’s Jack Aitken with four laps to go.

Seventh place went to Carlin’s Louis Delétraz, who – like teammate Nobuhara Matsushita – lost positions through a slow pit stop. The Swiss driver will be hoping he can claim his first win of the season in reversed-grid Sunday’s Sprint Race, in which he will start from the front row alongside Sauber Junior Team driver Callum Ilott who finished in eighth.

Matsushita and MP Motorsport’s Jordan King completed the points’ finishers in ninth and tenth respectively.

Nicholas Latifi, DAMS and Luca Ghiotto, UNI-Virtuosi Racing - 2019 Formula 2 Race of Britain

Race-winner Ghiotto and second-placed Latifi provided much of the Feature Race’s entertainment.

It was a race of relatively low attrition. Series returnee Dorian Boccolacci did not have a good start to his new stint with Trident, crashing out on the second lap of the race. The final lap of the race saw Arjun Maini (Campos Racing) turf Nikita Mazepin (ART Grand Prix) into retirement at the last corner while the pair battled for twelfth place – the Indian driver was later given a post-race time penalty.

There was also some intrigue before the race over the future of PREMA Racing driver Sean Gelael. The Indonesian driver abruptly withdrew from the entire weekend’s activities, seemingly in response to being hit with a three-place grid penalty for colliding with Delétraz during Free Practice – the FIA Stewards had originally opted not to penalise him, but later revisited the incident and awarded the grid penalty.

This left the Italian team – winners of both the 2016 and 2017 championship seasons – with Mick Schumacher as their sole driving representative; the German finished eleventh after being a victim of an opening-lap dust-up with Nikita Mazepin.

2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Britain Feature Race Final Classification (29 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. Luca Ghiotto UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Racing 29 50:21.114 25
2. Nicholas Latifi DAMS 29 + 3.314 18
3. Guan Yu Zhou UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Racing 29 + 7.186 19
4. Sérgio Sette Câmara DAMS 29 + 11.841 14
5. Jack Aitken Campos Racing 29 + 13.744 10
6. Nyck de Vries ART Grand Prix 29 + 18.969 8
7. Louis Delétraz Carlin Motorsport 29 + 19.466 6
8. Callum Ilott Sauber Junior Team by Charouz 29 + 23.144 4
9. Nobuharu Matsushita Carlin Motorsport 29 + 24.263 2
10. Jordan King MP Motorsport 29 + 30.176 1
11. Mick Schumacher de Prema Racing 29 + 31.100
12. Juan Manuel Correa Sauber Junior Team by Charouz 29 + 47.708
13. Arjun Maini Campos Racing 29 + 52.072
14. Tatiana Calderón BWT Arden 29 + 1:19.155
15. Mahaveer Raghunathan MP Motorsport 29 + 1:31.116
16. Nikita Mazepin ART Grand Prix 28 Collision
17. Giuliano Alesi Trident Racing 28 + 1 lap
18. Anthoine Hubert BWT Arden 28 + 1 lap
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Reason
DNF. Dorian Boccolacci Trident Racing 1 Collision
WD. Sean Gelael Prema Racing Personal

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.
  • Guan Yu Zhou is awarded four bonus championship points for claiming pole position for the Feature Race.
  • Sérgio Sette Câmara is awarded two bonus championship points for posting the fastest lap of the Feature Race by a top-ten finisher.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Arjun Maini – who provisionally finished in P12 – was issued a 5-second post-race time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Nikita Mazepin.
  • Nikita Mazepin – who provisionally finished in P16 – was issued a 5-second post-race time penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
  • Giuliano Alesi – who provisionally finished in P17 – was issued a 5-second post-race time penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Alesi was additionally issued a further 10-second stop/go penalty and 20-second post-race time penalty for an unsafe pit release (improperly secured wheel nut)

Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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