After near-misses for Prema’s Nyck de Vries in the earlier races, the Dutchman finally was able to stand on the top step of the podium after winning the Sprint Race at Paul Ricard’s FIA Formula 2 Championship weekend.
It was another terrible start to a F2 race with multiple cars suffering further troubles. The list included feature race winner ART’s George Russell, Russian Time’s Artem Markelov and both the MP Motorsport drivers.
Russell pulled into the pits on the formation lap itself while his teammate spun on the final corner of the formation lap to make it a miserable run for the French outfit. Aitken retired from the race without even getting to start while Russell joined the field.
Meanwhile, at the start, reverse-grid pole-sitter Russian Time’s Tadasuke Makino had a poor getaway to drop fifth in the opening lap as DAMS’ Nicholas Latifi took the lead from Charouz Racing’s Louis Deletraz and de Vries.
The lead changed when Deletraz cleared Latifi on Lap 4 and soon the Canadian found himself behind de Vries as the Prema driver started to pile on the pressure on Deletraz. The quicker Dutchman made an easy work of Deletraz on Lap 13.
It was then holding on to win his first race of the season, the first for Prema as well by a commanding 9.6s lead over Deletraz who came under pressure from Ghitto but managed to hang on by 0.2s in the end to take his second podium of the season.
Latifi continued to have a slip down the order as Charouz Racing’s Antonio Fuoco, Carlin’s Sergio Sette Camara & Lando Norris and even his teammate Alexander Albon got past the Canadian in the 21-lap race.
The Force India development driver had a tangle with Norris in the fight for fifth where the DAMS’ driver damaged his front wing which allowed Camara and Albon to pass through. He still managed to limp the car into eighth to score a point.
As a result, Fuoco finished fourth from championship leader Norris who made his way to fifth from 16th after clearing teammate Camara in a wheel-to-wheel combat. The Brazilian finished sixth with Albon in seventh.
Just outside the points was Trident’s Santino Ferrucci who cleared teammate Arjun Maini and Arden’s Maximilian Gunther to be ninth ahead of Campos’ Roy Nissany who himself had to pass Gunther and Maini – which included a wheel-to-wheel tussle with the Indian.
The Haas junior driver had his weekend compromised due to a recurring engine issue faced more trouble when he had a contact with Gunther – the German was handed a five-second penalty, but the damage to Maini’s race was already done by then.
At the back, Mercedes junior Russell finished a lap down while Renault junior Markelov retired on the last lap with both the MP Motorsport cars of Roberto Merhi and Ralph Boschung also finishing a lap down after opening lap troubles.
Positions 11-18: Nissany, Gunther, Fukuzumi, Maini, Markelov, Merhi, Boschung, Russell and Sean Gelael. DNF: Makino and Aitken.
UPDATE: Both Nissany and Gunther were handed five-second time penalty in post-race penalties, but remained 10th and 11th in the standings. The Israeli gained an advantage by cutting a corner in his fight with Maini.
Meanwhile, Gunther was also fighting Maini when both made contact. The stewards deemed that the Indian had the line to get ahead but Gunther turned in unnecessarily. Camara was fined by €600 for pit lane speeding by 5.4km/hr.