ROAD TO F1: Latifi and Beckmann seal first wins of season at Spa
Back in business. The Spa spectators were treated to a blockbuster weekend of racing action, with the Formula 2 and GP3 drivers also taking to the magical circuit to showcase their talents. And while some delivered the goods on their return from the summer break, others will be desperate to bounce back in Italy…
F2 FEATURE RACE
Nyck de Vries, the McLaren junior, came into this race having won the Feature Race last time out in Hungary, and the youngster repeated those exploits with another race-winning performance for Prema as the season resumed at Spa.
Despite starting on pole and holding onto the lead at the start, the Dutchman was made to work hard for his third victory of the season. A slow pit stop and then a Safety Car – deployed after Nirei Fukuzumi's Arden caught fire (as shown below) – dropped him back into traffic, but he was able to show his pace to ultimately come home three seconds ahead of his nearest rival.
And that rival was Sergio Sette Camara after the Carlin driver got the better of ART Grand Prix’s George Russell at the start to climb into second, a position he held on to. That meant Mercedes junior Russell had to settle for the final podium position, ahead of his British rival Lando Norris.
While Norris may have missed out on a top-three finish, he did once again showcase his overtaking prowess, something that has become a familiar sight this season. MP Motorsport’s Ralph Boschung was his first scalp around the outside of Blanchimont, and then the Brit followed up on that move seconds later with a sweeping move on Russian Time’s Tadasuke Makino.
Not a bad return to action for the F2 drivers then, but who would triumph in the Sprint Race?
F2 SPRINT RACE
A straightforward victory for Nicholas Latifi, who delivered a controlled race from reverse-grid pole to seal his first win of the season, may suggest it was a Sprint Race without much action. It was anything but.
Latifi was put under early pressure by Luca Ghiotto on the first lap but after withstanding that challenge, the DAMS driver found his rhythm and cruised to a comfortable triumph. Behind the victor, there was plenty of action to keep the Spa faithful entertained - and much of it occurred on the final lap.
Carlin’s Norris, who delivered one of the standout moments in the Feature Race, mounted a late charge for second in this Sprint Race, and the highly-rated Brit did indeed move ahead of fellow McLaren junior De Vries on the last lap to claim second.
De Vries endured a disappointing finale to this race, after Alexander Albon in the DAMS also passed him on the last lap to claim the final podium position. In fact, Albon even challenged Norris for second place at the final corner, but Norris pipped the London-born Thai driver.
Despite missing out on a second podium of the weekend, De Vries can hold his head high after an impressive start to this race. The Feature Race winner made a lightning start to jump from eighth on the grid to third at the first turn, and then held off the last-lap challenge of Artem Markelov – with the pair even making contact at the final corner – to come home P4.
An entertaining finale then – and more reason to look forward to the next event in Italy!
GP3 FEATURE RACE
In what was just his third race for Trident, after joining from Jenzer Motorsport earlier in the season, David Beckmann registered his maiden GP3 Series win, delivering a controlled performance from pole to finish ahead of team mate Ryan Tveter.
ART Grand Prix’s Anthoine Hubert completed the podium but was made to rue yet another slow start off the line, and he was perhaps fortunate to hold on to P3 at Turn 1. He did, however, find his groove and got to within 0.6s of Tveter, but ultimately had to settle for third.
It was a memorable day for Trident, with the Italian squad taking three of the top four positions at Spa including a well-deserved one-two. Would they repeat those exploits in the second race of the weekend or would ART bounce back?
GP3 SPRINT RACE
ART did indeed bounce back in spectacular fashion at Spa, with Nikita Mazepin leading home a 1-2-3-4 for the French squad ahead of team mates Anthoine Hubert, Callum Ilott and Jake Hughes.
Mazepin gained the lead on lap four from Hughes, who himself moved to the front at the start after reverse-grid pole-sitter Joey Mawson struggled from the off, and the Force India junior mastered his tyre strategy perfectly to claim his third GP3 win.
So it was ART who dominated this race, with Pedro Piquet and Giuliano Alesi securing fifth and sixth respectively for Trident, while MP Motorsport's Richard Verschoor and Tveter made up the top eight.
TOP 5 MOMENTS OF THE WEEKEND IN F2
DRIVER OF THE WEEKEND – Lando Norris
Given he didn’t win over the weekend, you may be surprised to see Norris named as our latest Driver of the Weekend - but with the majority of victories pretty straightforward at Spa, we’ve given it to the Brit for his attacking exploits.
His superb double pass on Boschung and Makino was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the first race (as shown below), and he then produced a similarly-exciting drive by clinching second on the last lap with another trademark move on De Vries.
All this came after he made his Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend debut for McLaren, with the Brit taking the seat of Fernando Alonso for opening practice of the Belgian GP. Certainly a weekend to remember for the 18-year-old.
THE KEY QUOTE
“I’m obviously extremely happy, especially to do it here at my kind-of home race in front of so many Dutch fans, and my friends and family were all able to watch so it’s nice to perform well in front of them. We’ve been very strong and competitive all weekend so I think we deserved it. We never gave up and kept pushing, and it was very well deserved for the team and for me. It was a tough race, because we were very strong on the option but lost a bit of the gap after the pit stop. The Safety Car didn’t really help, but nevertheless we kept it all together and secured a second Feature Race win, so I’m very pleased with that.” Nyck de Vries
Norris’ fine weekend, coupled with Russell’s average performance at Spa, means he has now moved to within five points of his British rival, while Albon holds on to third ahead of De Vries and Markelov.
THE TOP FIVE IN F2...
Nyck de Vries
Hubert’s P2 in Race 2 helped the Frenchman retain his championship lead ahead of Ilott and Mazepin, while Leonardo Pulcini and Piquet complete the top five.
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The F2 and GP3 talents return to action this weekend at Monza in support of the Italian Grand Prix, which runs from August 31-September 2.
For more information on the FIA Formula 2 Championship, click here.