Nicholas Latifi claimed his first Formula 2 Championship race win since Barcelona with a superb drive in the Feature Race at the Hungaroring. The DAMS driver capitalised on a mistake by pole-sitter and championship leader Nyck de Vries at Turn 1 to take the race lead and ultimately secure victory.

The rain that lashed the circuit in Friday’s qualifying session did not make an appearance in Saturday morning’s 37-lap Feature Race. While de Vries led off the line and moved his ART Grand Prix car to the inside line to cover off a challenge by UNI-Virtuosi’s Luca Ghiotto, he left his braking too late for Turn 1. A lock-up sent him wide, allowing Latifi to capitalise and duck between the two of them to claim the race lead.

Latifi quickly set about building enough of a lead to stay clear of a DRS-assisted challenge from de Vries and Ghiotto, steadily pulling clear as the compulsory pit stop window opened at the end of the sixth lap. Behind the top-three, PREMA’s Mick Schumacher was holding off Jack Aitken after another rapid start by the Campos Racing driver.

By this stage the luckless Louis Delétraz had been forced to retire his Carlin from eighth place when its engine blew under acceleration down the start/finish straight. The Swiss driver safely parked his car behind the wall and avoided any Safety Car interruption.

With overtaking proving difficult on the go-kart style circuit, the pit stops would prove critical in determining the race’s outcome. Aitken was a major winner, leaping ahead of both Schumacher and Ghiotto with a faultless tyre change by his mechanics.

Latifi pitted a lap after de Vries and had built enough of a gap to ensure he held the effective race lead, emerging behind the handful of runners – led by MP Motorsport’s Jordan King – on the alternative tyre strategy.

Now on the Medium tyres, Schumacher was not finding life any easier and quickly came under attack from Nobuhara Matsushita in the sole remaining Carlin. The Japanese driver dispatched the German following a brief Virtual Safety Car (triggered by the retirement of Aitken’s teammate Arjun Maini) and then set about chasing down fourth-placed Ghiotto.

Latifi had built a six-second gap back to de Vries by the time King had eventually made his compulsory pit stop, reclaiming a race lead that he would ultimate not surrender.

Nicholas Latifi, DAMS - 2019 Formula 2 Race of Hungary

Latifi’s victory over de Vries helped him close the points’ gap to the Dutch driver in their battle for Drivers’ Championship honours.

Matsushita was the man on the move and after catching Ghiotto, the pair staged an entertaining scrap for fourth place. As Ghiotto defended his position, the pair were closed upon by Latifi’s teammate Sérgio Sette Câmara, who had climbed up through the field from twelfth on the grid. All three of them were being closed down by the rapid King, enjoying the benefit of fresh Soft tyres and a light fuel load.

All four cars were now nose-to-tail and as Matsushita lunged past Ghiotto at Turn 1, he drifted wide and allowed the Italian to cut back up the inside on the downhill run to Turn 2. Sette Câmara nipped past Matsushita, with King following suit to demote the Austria Feature Race winner to seventh.

Any further progress King could make was thwarted by a spectacular engine blow-up for Ralph Boschung, making his return to the grid after a two-round break. The Swiss driver’s Trident billowed a huge plume of smoke and a river of oil, which he liberally spread across the circuit through Turn 4 before pulling off the circuit at Turn 5.

De Vries slid off on the oil slick and was lucky not to lose second place to Aitken in the process before the Safety Car was called into action. With just three laps to go, the race was effectively over, handing victory to Latifi.

De Vries finished second behind his main championship rival, but thanks to the four bonus points earned for claiming pole position in yesterday’s rain-affected qualifying session his championship lead was cut by just three points to a margin of 28.

Aitken finished a fine third, with Sette Câmara fourth ahead of Ghiotto, King, Matsushita, Schumacher, Guanyu Zhou (UNI-Virtuosi) and Callum Ilott (Sauber Junior Team). Schumacher will start from pole position for the reversed-grid Sprint Race on Sunday – should he claim his maiden F2 race win it will occur fifteen years after his father Michael claimed his final Hungarian Grand Prix victory.

2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Hungary Feature Race Final Classification (37 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. Nicholas Latifi DAMS 37 1:02:40.675 25
2. Nyck de Vries ART Grand Prix 37 + 0.752 22
3. Jack Aitken Campos Racing 37 + 1.045 15
4. Luca Ghiotto UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Racing 37 + 2.995 12
5. Sérgio Sette Câmara DAMS 37 + 4.144 10
6. Jordan King MP Motorsport 37 + 5.048 10
7. Nobuharu Matsushita Carlin Motorsport 37 + 5.282 6
8. Mick Schumacher de Prema Racing 37 + 15.807 4
9. Guan Yu Zhou UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Racing 37 + 17.795 2
10. Callum Ilott Sauber Junior Team by Charouz 37 + 18.562 1
11. Anthoine Hubert BWT Arden 37 + 20.018
12. Nikita Mazepin ART Grand Prix 37 + 22.072
13. Giuliano Alesi Trident Racing 37 + 22.754
14. Juan Manuel Correa Sauber Junior Team by Charouz 37 + 23.756
15. Sean Gelael Prema Racing 37 + 28.183
16. Tatiana Calderón BWT Arden 37 + 1:15.823
17. Mahaveer Raghunathan MP Motorsport 37 + 1:16.712
18. Ralph Boschung Trident Racing 33 Engine
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Reason
DNF. Arjun Maini Campos Racing 17 Engine
DNF. Louis Delétraz Carlin Motorsport 3 Engine

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.
  • Nyck de Vries is awarded four bonus championship points for claiming pole position for the Feature Race.
  • Jordan King is awarded two bonus championship points for posting the fastest lap of the Feature Race by a top-ten finisher.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Sean Gelael – who provisionally finished in P14 – was issued a 5-second post-race time penalty for speeding in the pit lane.

Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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