Luca Ghiotto moved himself into contention to finish runner-up in the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship standings with a fine defensive drive to victory over newly-crowned champion Nyck de Vries in the Sprint Race at Sochi.

The race had a lengthy suspension after a frightening opening-lap crash for Nobuhara Matsushita and reversed-grid pole-sitter Nikita Mazepin.

The Russian made a clean getaway from the front row to lead the chasing pack on the long run to Turn 2. Jack Aitken tucked into his slipstream and attempted to pass the ART Grand Prix driver around the outside, but both left their braking too late and took to the tarmac run-off.

Further behind Feature Race podium finisher Louis Delétraz came too quickly into the corner and spun his car before the apex to prevent a major accident. Somehow the rest of the field managed to avoid hitting him.

Despite clear guidance from the FIA about the procedures to safely rejoin the circuit at Turn 3, both Aitken and Mazepin kept their right foot firmly planted. Aitken followed the correct around around the run-off bollards, but Mazepin took a shortcut past the first and was tipped back onto the circuit by Aitken and straight into the path of Matsushita.

Matsushita was collected by Mazepin and sent spearing head-on into the TecPro barriers before again being hit by an out-of-control Mazepin as he ricocheted backwards from the impact. It was a frightening crash and there were initially fears both drivers had been injured; the race was quickly red-flagged while Matsushita was extracted by the circuit medics and it was later confirmed neither driver had any injuries.

With the race shortened due to time constraints, it was eventually restarted with a reduced 15-lap distance. Ghiotto now had a clear path to the lead ahead of Callum Ilott and de Vries, although the Dutchman quickly attacked the Briton at Turn 2.

Ilott bravely tried to hang on through the long Turn 3 left-hander, but had to surrender to the ART Grand Prix driver at Turn 4.

Ghiotto had built a 2.6-second advantage, but mindful of the high tyre degradation this weekend he backed off to preserve his Pirelli rubber. That allowed de Vries to close up to within DRS range, forcing the Italian to start to defend his lead.

Ghiotto was bulletproof in defence, despite de Vries’ best DRS-assisted efforts. At the end of 15 laps, a relieved Ghiotto crossed the finish line to claim his third win of the season and move within 10 points of snatching second place from Nicholas Latifi in the Drivers’ Championship standings.

Ilott rounded out the podium ahead of Latifi and Ghiotto’s teammate Guan Yu Zhou, with Sérgio Sette Câmara, Sean Gelael and Giuliano Alesi claiming the final points on offer.

With de Vries (266 points) and unassailable 72 points clear Latifi (194), the focus heading into the season-ending Abu Dhabi round will be whether Ghiotto (184) can use his momentum to claim the runner-up position. Sette Câmara (165) and Jack Aitken (159) remain in mathematical contention but will require an awful lot of luck at the Yas Marina Circuit in November.

The Teams’ Championship fight is a slightly more open contest, with DAMS on top with 359 points ahead of UNI-Virtuosi (306).

As a postscript, Mazepin was handed a severe sanction of a 15-place grid penalty for the Yas Marina Feature Race for causing the opening-lap collision with Matsushita. The Russian, in the opinion of the FIA Stewards, “showed a total lack of due care for his fellow drivers and caused a bad incident, which could have been much worse”.

2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Russia Sprint Race Final Classification (15 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. Luca Ghiotto UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Racing 15 1:18:21.329 15
2. Nyck de Vries ART Grand Prix 15 + 0.712 12
3. Callum Ilott Sauber Junior Team by Charouz 15 + 1.672 10
4. Nicholas Latifi DAMS 15 + 3.383 10
5. Guan Yu Zhou UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Racing 15 + 3.820 6
6. Sérgio Sette Câmara DAMS 15 + 7.336 4
7. Sean Gelael Prema Racing 15 + 10.343 2
8. Giuliano Alesi Trident Racing 15 + 13.108 1
9. Jordan King MP Motorsport 15 + 14.851
10. Artem Markelov BWT Arden 15 + 16.769
11. Jack Aitken Campos Racing 15 + 23.898
12. Ralph Boschung Trident Racing 15 + 26.558
13. Matevos Isaakyan Sauber Junior Team by Charouz 15 + 27.414
14. Louis Delétraz Carlin Motorsport 15 + 31.933
15. Marino Sato Campos Racing 15 + 36.472
16. Mahaveer Raghunathan MP Motorsport 15 + 43.057
17. Tatiana Calderón BWT Arden 15 + 1:01.506
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Reason
DNF. Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 7 Mechanical
DNF. Nikita Mazepin ART Grand Prix 0 Collision
DNF. Nobuharu Matsushita Carlin Motorsport 0 Collision

Championship Points:

  • 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.
  • Nicholas Latifi is awarded two bonus championship points for posting the fastest lap of the Sprint Race by a top-ten finisher.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Nikita Mazepin will serve a 15-place grid penalty for the Yas Marina Feature Race for causing an avoidable collision with Nobuhara Matsushita.

Images and text 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.