George Russell skilfully capitalized on the tricky track conditions and endless incidents to secure victory in the first FIA Formula 2 race held today at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Nyck De Vries (PERTAMINA PREMA Theodore Racing) and Lando Norris (Carlin) flanked the young Briton on the podium.
The Virtual Safety Car was triggered four times, and largely determined the race result. Numerous accidents and trips through the travel forced the cars to lap over one third of the race at 80 km/hour while keeping their positions rock steady. This proves the aggressiveness and commitment of this set of young drivers fighting for a seat in Formula One. They all aspire to follow last year’s series champion Charles Leclerc footsteps, who graduated to motor racing’s top echelon as official Sauber driver in 2018.
Russell took the start from P4 and grasped the lead in lap 6 shortly after the first VSC, with the help of the DRS, as he disposed of De Vries in the home straight. The young 20 year-old reigning GP3 champion -who is currently in Mercedes’ development program- did not crack under pressure and survived the subsequent three Virtual Safety Car episodes, and lead to a well-deserved victory.
The ART Grand Prix team strategy of delaying Russell’s compulsory pit stop to switch tyre compound turned out to be key, as the Briton went back on the track ahead of bellicose Nyck De Vries, who tirelessly kept trying to pass him until the last minute.
Current championship leader Lando Norris worked his way up to 3rd from 8th on the grid. However, the most outstanding charge through the field was Artem Markelov’s. The Russian Time driver climbed up the order from last on the grid to 8th place finish, and was rewarded with a pole in tomorrow’s race (11.30am), as the top 8 drivers will start in reverse order.
Spanish driver Roberto Merhi (MP Motorsport) missed the points zone and entered 13th. Following contact with team mate Ralph Boschung in lap 6, he was forced to pit and repair the damaged nose of his car, burying all hopes for a top 10 finish.