Mercedes junior and ART Grand Prix’s George Russell extended his FIA Formula 2 Championship lead with a win in sprint race after another retirement for Carlin’s Lando Norris.
It was Arden’s Nirei Fukuzumi on reverse grid pole for Sunday’s feature race in Russia’s Sochi Autodrome after time penalty for Campos Racing’s Robert Merhi who was then forced to start from ninth.
The Japanese driver stuck to his lead despite taking the run-off route along with several others. He had ART’s George Russell and Carlin’s Sergio Sette Camara on his back as the safety car was deployed.
It was a nightmare run for front-row starter Trident’s Alessio Lorandi who ran into the back of DAMS’ Nicholas Latifi as the Italian out-braked himself to hit Latifi. At the back, Norris was put under investigation for being out of position on the formation lap.
The British driver was handed a 10 second stop/go penalty dashing his title hopes which later turned into a nightmare as he was forced to retire due to puncture in a collision with Trident’s Arjun Maini.
The double DNF has ruled him out of the title contention with Russell having DAMS’ Alexander Albon as his main rival heading into the finale in Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, it got interesting with the rain falling midway in the race.
The crashes for MP Motorpsort’s Niko Kari and ART’s Jack Aitken forced most to dive into the pits for the rain tyres – barring the Charouz Racing System’s Antonio Fuoco and Louis Deletraz. Campos’ Luca Ghiotto stayed out initially but pitted for the change.
The order though remained pretty much same after the pit stop as Russell led Camara and Albon – all of whom had already cleared Fukuzumi before the rain interruption. In fact, the Japanese dropped to the lower half of Top 10.
Even Prema’s Nyck de Vries and Russian Time’s Artem Markelov had gone past Fukuzumi as they ran fifth and sixth respectively. The Russian cleared both Fuoco and de Vries to fourth with de Vries slotting in fifth from Fuoco before the pit stop.
Post the stop, de Vries fought back to reclaim fourth from Markelov as Russell eased into his sixth win of the season and extend his lead over Albon who finished third behind Camara with de Vries in fourth.
Markelov settled for fifth from Merhi who fought his way up after early dramas with Fukuzumi salvaging seventh and MP Motorpsort’s Dorian Boccolacci scoring the final point after he overtook Fuoco in the latter part of the race.
The gamble from Charouz didn’t work hugely as Fuoco found himself out the points along with teammate Deletraz. Arden’s Maximilian Gunther rounded out the Top 10 from Russian Time’s Tadasuke Makino.
The Japanese was running eighth midway in the race but lost places in the second half. Prema’s Sean Gelael made up eight places to 12th from Deletraz, Ghiotto and Maini – the latter having to do an extra stop for a front wing change.
The incident between him and Norris was put under investigation. As known, Norris retired from the race along with Aitken, Kari, Latifi and Lorandi.