Four wins, 11 podiums, 254 points, one Championship title and a season of utter domination. Nyck de Vries sealed the 2019 FIA Formula 2 title in style with victory in the Sochi Feature Race ahead of his main challenger Nicholas Latifi. The Canadian had to settle for second on the day, and now faces a fight for the same spot in the Drivers’ standings with three races of the season to go.

Louis Delétraz completed the top three with his first Feature Race podium in F2, but he left it late, divebombing past Luca Ghiotto on the final lap. The Italian had risked the alternate strategy as he went for victory, but in the end couldn’t build a big enough gap between himself and De Vries, before eventually losing out on a podium place when his Supersoft tyres gave up.

The morning’s rain had dried up by the time de Vries lined up on pole at 16:45 local time and he got off the line smoothly, surging into the distance ahead of Latifi and Callum Ilott. The duo both held on off the line, but couldn’t match the sheer pace, and determination, of the Champion-to-be.

2019 Formula 2 Russia Feature Race start

De Vries scorched away from pole position to lead the pack on the opening lap.

Further back, the top half of the field remained largely unaltered, apart from the dazzling red PREMA of Mick Schumacher, who had risen up to seventh thanks to a storming start. The German’s overtaking spree was momentarily halted as Artem Markelov pulled off the track and into retirement after contact, bringing out a Virtual Safety Car.

When racing resumed, Ilott went into freefall. The Briton slowed and plummeted down the order, from third to twelfth. This handed Schumacher sixth, which he then turned into fifth with a move on Guan Yu Zhou, who was later slapped with a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.

Out in front, Latifi knew that he would need to pass de Vries to prevent the Dutchman from claiming the title, but his hopes were dashed when Ghiotto lunged down his left hand side for second. The Italian didn’t stop there and daringly sent it down the side of de Vries at the first corner, to complete his charge from fourth to first.

Unlike Ghiotto, de Vries and Latifi had both started on the supersofts and would pit later that lap, returning in tenth and eleventh. This sparked into motion the Italian’s alternate strategy, as he set about maintaining the 27-second gap that would be required when he eventually pitted. Behind the Italian, Schumacher, Nikita Mazepin and Nobuharu Matsushita had opted for the same strategy.

Schumacher’s attempts at making this work were dealt a blow as the Russian passed him, prompting a momentous roar from his home crowd. The rear of his PREMA was then in the eye-line of Matsushita, who overtook the German when he locked up at Turn 13.

De Vries and Latifi had already set about closing what was initially a 32-second gap to Ghiotto, as they dashed by Marino Sato, and shortly after, Ralph Boschung. At this point, Schumacher was forced out of the race when his PREMA went up in smoke. The Ferrari F1 junior made it back to the pits, but was forced to retire.

Five laps remained and the gap between de Vries and Ghiotto was now just 26 seconds, but still, the Italian refused to pit. He would devilishly remain out for two further laps, as he looked to make the switch when the front field’s rubber would be at its weakest.

When the UNI-Virtuosi racer eventually swapped his mediums for supersofts, he returned behind both of the Championship’s top two and Delétraz – albeit, with fresher, faster tyres. He made light work of the Carlin and began to chase down Latifi. He got within touching distance, but slipped slightly wide and cost himself valuable time.

This allowed de Vries to cross the line unopposed and fittingly seal his Championship title with a fourth victory of the year, while Latifi held on for second. Behind them, Delétraz managed to sneak back past Ghiotto on the final lap, as the Italian appeared to lock-up.

Sérgio Sette Câmara completed the top five, ahead of Matsushita, Jack Aitken, Mazepin, Ilott and Zhou.

De Vries secured the F2 Championship with an advantage of 70 points over Latifi in second. Ghiotto is third with 169, ahead of Sette Câmara on 161 and Aitken on 159.

In the Teams’ Championship, DAMS remain in first with 345 points, ahead of UNI-Virtuosi on 285 and ART Grand Prix on 264. Carlin are fourth with 200 and Campos Racing fifth with 189.

De Vries may have been named champion, but there remains everything to play for behind him, with second place still very much up for grabs. The Sprint Race action continues on Sunday at 11.20 local time, with Mazepin starting from the reversed-grid pole in front of his home crowd.

2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Russia Feature Race Final Classification (28 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. Nyck de Vries ART Grand Prix 28 54:12.087 29
2. Nicholas Latifi DAMS 28 + 4.918 18
3. Louis Delétraz Carlin Motorsport 28 + 5.995 15
4. Luca Ghiotto UNI Virtuosi Racing 28 + 7.607 14
5. Sérgio Sette Câmara DAMS 28 + 11.378 10
6. Nobuharu Matsushita Carlin Motorsport 28 + 20.364 8
7. Jack Aitken Campos Racing 28 + 27.403 6
8. Nikita Mazepin ART Grand Prix 28 + 28.572 4
9. Callum Ilott Sauber Junior Team by Charouz 28 + 32.394 2
10. Guan Yu Zhou UNI Virtuosi Racing 28 + 33.756 1
11. Sean Gelael Prema Racing 28 + 43.365
12. Jordan King MP Motorsport 28 + 47.493
13. Giuliano Alesi Trident Racing 28 + 48.620
14. Ralph Boschung Trident Racing 28 + 59.021
15. Tatiana Calderón BWT Arden 28 + 1:09.884
16. Marino Sato Campos Racing 28 + 1:46.218
17. Mahaveer Raghunathan MP Motorsport 27 1 lap behind
18. Matevos Isaakyan Sauber Junior Team by Charouz 27 1 lap behind
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Reason
DNF. Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 19 Engine
DNF. Artem Markelov BWT Arden 0 Accident

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.
  • Luca Ghiotto is awarded two bonus championship points for posting the fastest lap of the Feature Race by a top-ten finisher.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • None.

Images and text via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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