Hockenheim, Race 1: Sirotkin wins dramatic Feature Race
Russian fights back from extra stop for victory
Sergey Sirotkin won from pole in this afternoon’s Feature Race at the Hockenheimring: if that sounds simple then it was anything but, as the Russian had to fight back after taking an extra stop under an early VSC period, battling for position throughout the race to clinch victory ahead of Luca Ghiotto and Pierre Gasly.
The race got underway in gloriously sunny conditions, with Sirotkin on softs making a tremendous start against fellow front row starter Gasly, who bogged down on the medium compound and was swamped off the line by his rivals, handing a clean line through to Raffaele Marciello, Norman Nato and Oliver Rowland, with the Red Bull tester down in P12 by the end of the lap.
Marciello took advantage of his tougher tyres to sweep past the Russian on lap 3, with the soft tyres clearly losing their edge: Rowland was the first of the soft-shod drivers to pit on lap 6, but when Artem Markelov tagged the back of Jordan King and spun into retirement at Turn 4 the race went into its first VSC period, just as Sirotkin was coming into the pits: the Russian emerged ahead of Nato in P4, with the Frenchman jumping him as the race went live, just before a second VSC period to remove Sean Gelael and Daniël de Jong’s stricken cars after the pair collided at the hairpin.
Ghiotto was on a charge at the restart, easily jumping Gasly when the race went live and storming away. Ahead of them Marciello managed his soft tyres well before pitting on lap 12 from the lead, leaving the order at the front Alex Lynn from teammate Nicholas Latifi, Nato and Sirotkin, with the Canadian was mugged by his pursuers two laps later when the pair slide by at the Turn 5/6 complex. But all eyes were on Marciello, who was setting the pace as he worked to manage the gap up to the front while fighting through the backmarkers.
Sirotkin, who claimed P2 with a nice move on Nato on lap 15, was under investigation for stopping under the VSC, but clearly put it out of his mind as he hunted down the lead of the race: 5 laps later he mugged Lynn for P1, just as the stewards advised that his pitstop would not count, and the Russian tore off as he looked to build as big a lead as he could before the inevitable stop.
As the stops were shaking out the order was Sirotkin from Gasly and Gustav Malja: the Swede stopped on lap 25, the Russian next time by, and Gasly handed the lead back to Marciello on lap 27. With 11 laps remaining Sirotkin sat behind Ghiotto and Rowland in P4, but fresh rubber was to make the difference as the Russian jumped the pair just before Nato was tapped into a spin by Lynn at Turn 4, bringing out another VSC period.
The race was live again on lap 29, with Sirotkin hunting Marciello before striking 3 laps later in the final complex, easily sliding inside for a lead that was to hold to the flag: Ghiotto hounded down his countryman and grabbed P2 with 2 laps remaining, while Gasly, who had been making amends for his poor start with a string of overtakes throughout the race, got inside Marciello on shot tyres at the final corner, and won the drag to the line for the final podium position.
Arthur Pic managed his tyres well to be able to profit late in the race, finishing a lonely P5 ahead of Rowland, who was out of rubber at the end but just held off a storming Malja, who executed a superb race strategy for 7th at the flag. Lynn crossed the line 5th, but a 10 second time penalty for his collision with Nato dropped the Briton to P8 and tomorrow’s reverse pole, with Antonio Giovinazzi running out of tyres and dropping backwards in the closing laps to 9th after a storming race from last on the grid, and Nobuharu Matsushita holding on for the final point of the race in P10. The win sees Sirotkin move up to 2nd in the drivers’ standings behind Gasly, 122 points to 101, ahead of Giovinazzi on 98 and Marciello on 97 points going into tomorrow’s Sprint Race.
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