Yuki Tsunoda claimed his second Formula 2 Championship win in the Spa-Francorchamps Feature Race after a controversial five-second time penalty was handed to on-the-road winner Nikita Mazepin.

Polesitter Tsunoda was able to fend off fellow front-row starter Mazepin into La Source at the start, and with the Russian driver pushed wide in his Hitech that allowed Nobuhara Matsushita to daringly overtake him at Eau Rouge for second place.

Matsushita’s time in second place would be all too brief, however, as his Soft tyres swiftly began to degrade.  Mazepin used DRS to slip by the Japanese driver on the run into Les Combes on Lap 3.  Matsushita continued to lose places over the next lap, and an ill-judged chop across the nose of MP Motorsport teammate Felipe Drugovich at Blanchimont put him out of the race.

Drugovich was trying to pass Matsushita at the fast left-hander when he clipped his right-rear, causing an immediate puncture that sent Matsushita spinning into the barriers and immediate retirement.  Drugovich was forced into the pits with a damaged front wing, one lap before the compulsory pit stops were allowed to start.

Matsushita’s stricken car triggered a brief Virtual Safety Car period and when the action resumed Tsunoda continued to lead with a three-second gap to Mazepin and Prema’s Mick Schumacher who had worked his way up from seventh on the grid.

Mazepin and Schumacher were the first frontrunners to pit and switch from Soft to Medium tyres on Lap 10, with Schumacher a slow front-left tyre change that dropped him out of contention for a possible win at the same circuit where his father Michael had triumphed on multiple occasions.

Tsunoda attempted to ward off Mazepin’s potential undercut by making his own stop a lap later.  A slow right-rear tyre change put paid to his ambitions, however, meaning that the Carlin driver exited the pits behind Mazepin who now held the effective race lead.

The gap between the pair stood at over four seconds, but Tsunoda steadily chipped away and closed to within DRS range the end of the eighteenth lap.

On Lap 20, Tsunoda tried to pass Mazepin for the lead on the approach to Les Combes, but Mazepin held the inside line and forced the Honda protege over the run-off.  Tsunoda regrouped and tried again on the penultimate lap, only for Mazepin to once again force his rival off at the same point on the circuit.

Tsunoda made one last attempt on the final lap, but again found his path blocked and this time backed out of the move.  The FIA Stewards had already announced an investigation into Mazepin’s staunch defensive driving and shortly after he crossed the finish line to take what looked like his second win of the season they handed down a five-second penalty that instead gave Tsunoda a second victory.

Nikita Mazepin, Hitech Grand Prix- 2020 FIA Formula 2 Championship Spa-Francorchamps

Mazepin was controversially stripped of his Feature Race win for forcing Tsunoda off the circuit.

A furious Mazepin railed at the stewards’ decision and clattered into the #2 board in parc fermé, which bounced dangerously close to a jubilant Tsunoda as he climbed out of his car.  Mazepin has form for losing his temper – he was once banned for punching a rival driver in his Formula 3 days – and somehow escaped major sanction on this occasion.

Schumacher completed the rostrum, earning his fifth podium finish of the season-to-date to strengthen his own championship aspirations.

Louis Delétraz finished fourth in his Charouz Racing System entry ahead of Schumacher’s teammate Robert Shwartzman who ran a relatively quiet race to fifth place.  With championship leader Callum Ilott only managing to finish in tenth place, this allowed the Russian to take a chunk out of the UNI-Virtuosi driver’s lead in the standings which has now been reduced to 7 points.

Having missed the first practice session following an initially inconclusive COVID-19 test, DAMS’ Dan Ticktum claimed a fine sixth, withstanding heavy pressure from UNI-Virtuosi’s Guan Yu Zhou in the final laps.

Zhou was the top driver to run the alternate Medium-Soft tyre strategy.  A late pit stop to switch to the softer rubber saw him drop to ninth, but he managed to work his way up to seventh place and a front row start for reversed-grid Sunday’s Sprint Race.

Williams test driver Roy Nissany (Trident) earned his best Formula 2 Championship race finish with eighth place, also making use of the Medium-Soft strategy to claim pole position for the Sprint Race.

The top ten was completed by Luca Ghiotto (Hitech) and championship leader Ilott; the latter endured a difficult race and finished three seconds ahead of F2 debutante Jüri Vips who started on the back row of the grid.

2020 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Spa-Francorchamps Feature Race Final Classification (25 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result Pts
1. Yuki Tsunoda Carlin Motorsport 25 53:42.538 29
2. Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix 25 + 4.430 18
3. Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 25 + 5.639 15
4. Louis Delétraz Charouz Racing System 25 + 10.381 12
5. Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing 25 + 13.595 12
6. Dan Ticktum DAMS 25 + 16.218 8
7. Guan Yu Zhou UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Logo 25 + 16.453 6
8. Roy Nissany Trident Racing 25 + 20.792 4
9. Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix 25 + 24.222 2
10. Callum Ilott UNI Virtuosi Racing UNI-Virtuosi Logo 25 + 25.808 1
11. Jüri Vips DAMS 25 + 28.887
12. Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System 25 + 29.776
13. Jack Aitken Campos Racing 25 + 36.414
14. Marino Sato Trident Racing 25 + 36.613
15. Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix 25 + 38.942
16. Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab 25 + 44.258
17. Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix 25 + 46.051
18. Giuliano Alesi BWT HWA Racelab 25 + 47.045
19. Jehan Daruvala Carlin Motorsport 25 + 1:32.794
Not Classified Team / Entry Laps Reason
DSQ. Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport 25 Pit Stop
DNF. Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing 15 Mechanical
DNF. Nobuhara Matsushita MP Motorsport 3 Collision

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.
  • Four additional championship points are awarded to the driver (Yuki Tsunoda) and their corresponding team (Carlin Racing) for claiming pole position for the Feature Race.
  • Two additional championship points are awarded to the driver finishing in the top-ten (Robert Shwartzman) and their corresponding team (PREMA Racing) for posting the fastest lap of the race by a top-ten finisher.

Post-Race Penalties:

  • Nikita Mazepin was issued a 5-second time penalty for forcing another driver off the circuit. He was later given a suspended five-place grid drop for “potentially dangerous and unsportsmanlike conduct” in parc fermé.
  • Marcus Armstrong was issued a 5-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining a lasting advantage.
  • Felipe Drugovich was disqualified for making his mandatory pit stop on the final lap of the race, breaching Article 37.6 of the Formula 2 Sporting Regulations.
  • Nobuhara Matsushita was given a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Sprint Race after being deemed wholly responsible for the contact with Felipe Drugovich.

Images via Formula 2 Championship.

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Geoff Burke

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