Baku, Race 1: Leclerc dominates Baku feature race
Monegasque driver eases to third victory
Charles Leclerc showed his rivals a clean pair of heels in this morning’s FIA Formula 2 Championship feature race at the Baku City Circuit, easily controlling the race for a lights to flag victory, his second in a feature race and third overall, ahead of Nyck De Vries and Nicholas Latifi.
The win was set up at the start, with the Monegasque driver getting away easily as the lights went out to lead his rivals into turn one, with Latifi easily following him past a slow Nobuharu Matsushita in front of De Vries and Antonio Fuoco, with the Japanese driver just holding off Artem Markelov and Oliver Rowland into turn two. Unfortunately for Johnny Cecotto, who stalled before being restarted in the pitlane, his race lasted two corners before he found the wall, prompting the first safety car period.
Leclerc backed the pack up enormously before streaking away to hold the lead at the restart next time through, with De Vries running outside and through Latifi at turn one while behind the Canadian Matsushita and Markelov made short work of Fuoco, who now had Sergio Canamasas to contend with behind him until lap 7, when the Spaniard got past his Italian rival before he tried to regain the position at the next corner: the pair came together and Fuoco ran over Canamasas’ rear wheel and into the wall.
With almost all of the drivers starting on the supersofts it was time for their stops: Leclerc, Latifi, Matsushita and Rowland were straight in next time by, with De Vries claiming some clean air at the front for a lap before he also inevitably pitted. Discounting Luca Ghiotto, Ralph Boschung and Nabil Jeffri on the alternate strategy, the top five remained Leclerc from De Vries, Latifi, Markelov and Matsushita, with the Malaysian finding the wall next time round to prompt a brief VSC period to remove his car.
When the race went live again Leclerc wasted no time in moving forward, passing Boschung for P2 just before Louis Deletraz found the wall on lap 12, prompting a second safety car period and killing off any small hope race leader Ghiotto had of scoring any points, compounding his poor luck from qualifying. The Italian easily controlled the restart with Leclerc not needing to pass, and behind the pair De Vries running inside Boschung and Latifi going outside to slide in behind the virtual race leader and putting up an obstacle to those behind looking to snaffle their podium finishes.
Rowland was on a charge and made short work of Markelov, who was caught behind Boschung at turn one, and when Ghiotto pitted on lap 19 and Matsushita ran deep at turn one the race order was set at the front. 6 laps later Sean Gelael found the barrier at the tight turn 8, leaving Sergey Sirotkin nowhere to go but into him, blocking the circuit: the safety car re-emerged to lead the remainder of the drivers into the pitlane for a red flag finish.
Leclerc had easily controlled the late pace to hold De Vries, Latifi and a charging Rowland in check for another solid victory. Behind the Briton was Markelov and Norman Nato, who finished on top of Jordan King after a race-long battle, and although Sergio Sette Camara was next into the pits the classification rolled back a lap as usual, leaving Boschung delighted to finish in P8 despite a last lap incident, ahead of Canamasas and Sirotkin.
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