ROAD TO F1: Russell an F2 winner again as GP3 returns in Spain
After two thrilling showdowns, Formula 2 returned for the third round of the championship in Spain. And there was even more talent on show at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with the GP3 season getting underway…
F2 FEATURE RACE
George Russell is a man on a mission this season, and he did his reputation no harm with a superb F2 victory – his second in a row – in the opening race in Spain. Starting fifth on the grid, the Mercedes junior demonstrated his attacking prowess on lap six to move ahead of Nyck de Vries into Turn 1 – and he held on for the remaining 30 laps, despite non-stop pressure from his Dutch rival.
A superb triumph indeed, but it wasn’t without incident for the ART Grand Prix driver. Russell was investigated by the stewards after throwing a water bottle out of the car under the Virtual Safety Car (VSC), as shown in the video below. His ART team were hit with a €3000 fine but the Briton kept his victory, later explaining it had become loose in his cockpit.
Russell and De Vries were joined on the podium by Carlin’s Lando Norris, whose fantastic race saw him climb through the field from eighth to third. The McLaren protege even mounted a late fight for P2, but finished 0.7s behind Prema star De Vries.
Pole-sitter Alexander Albon, however, endured a frustrating afternoon, having bounced back from a slow start off the line to move into P2 before his medium tyres began to run out of life, with the resultant pit stop dropping him to fifth behind Luca Ghiotto.
All in all, it was an exciting race – and a fresh demonstration of the talent on show in F2 this year.
F2 SPRINT RACE
As starts come, Jack Aitken’s was almost perfect in the second race of the weekend – and ultimately gave him his first F2 triumph. The Renault junior started third on the grid, but a superb getaway saw him dart through the middle of pole-sitter Artem Markelov and Sergio Sette Camara and take the lead heading into Turn 1.
The damp track caused problems for the drivers, and Tadasuke Makino suffered a terrifying moment when Nirei Fukuzumi’s airborne car landed on top of his cockpit. Fortunately the halo safety device did its job, protecting the Russian Time driver from serious injury - and both drivers escaped unharmed.
That incident led to a full Safety Car which, along with three VSC periods, didn’t make Aitken’s life easy - but he superbly held on to give ART their second win of the weekend.
Albon finished second for DAMS, with Norris once again climbing through the field from sixth to seal another third place. Russell finished the Barcelona double-header with a respectable fourth, and he continued his development by taking part in Pirelli tyre testing with Force India on Tuesday.
GP3 FEATURE RACE
In GP3, Nikita Mazepin made the perfect start to his career in this formula by taking a debut win in impressive fashion. The Force India junior took advantage of a slow start from pole-sitter Leonardo Pulcini to move into the lead, and then controlled proceedings to lead an ART one-two-three, with Anthoine Hubert coming home in P2 after an enthralling tussle with Ferrari protege Callum Ilott.
GP3 SPRINT RACE
With his famous father watching on, Ferrari hopeful Giuliano Alesi (below) - the son of former F1 race winner Jean - stormed to a stunning victory in the second GP3 showdown in Spain, a wet race that was interrupted by the safety car three times. The Trident youngster, who also set the fastest lap, won by two seconds as ART’s Hubert defended stubbornly to hold on to P2 ahead of team mate Jake Hughes.
DRIVER OF THE WEEKEND – Jack Aitken
He narrowly missed out on this honour in Baku last time out, but Aitken deserves the plaudits this week with a superb performance in the Spanish sprint race. He made an excellent start from the second row of the grid to take the lead on the first lap, and survived a Safety Car and three VSC restarts to take a memorable first win. It would have no doubt boosted his hopes of making the step up to F1 – and he’ll get another chance to impress when he takes part in the post-race test with Renault on Wednesday.
THE KEY QUOTE
“There were a number of VSCs and we’ve never really tested or used it before, so going in blind made it tricky for all of us. But yeah, it was action-packed, and after the final VSC Nyck and I were pushing – maximum attack, really – and that was great fun to push these cars to the limit. There was huge pressure, especially to get out of the DRS zone, because with the headwind the DRS had a huge effect. All in all, it was a great race.” – George Russell, seen below crossing the chequered flag
Norris’ two third-placed finishes maintains his championship advantage, though the Briton’s lead over Albon has been cut to 13. Russell’s impressive weekend moves him into third in the standings, while De Vries moves up one spot to P4 and Sergio Sette Camara makes up the top five.
The top five in F2
|4||Nyck de Vries||Prema||46|
|5||Sergio Sette Camara||Carlin||46|
So after the first double header of the GP3 season, it’s Hubert who has a seven-point lead at the top of the standings following back-to-back P2 finishes. Mazepin edges Alesi by two points in second, while Britain's Ilott - part of the Ferrari junior programme - sits fourth above Pulcini by a solitary point.
The top five in GP3
|5||Leonardo Pulcini||Campos Racing||16|
Formula 2 is back at the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks’ time in support of Formula 1, whereas GP3 returns at the French Grand Prix from June 22-24.
For more information on the FIA Formula 2 Championship, click here.