Spa, Race 1: De Vries storms to commanding Feature Race win
Dutchman dominates en route to third 2018 F2 victory
Nyck de Vries put on a show for the travelling Dutch fans at the FIA Formula 2 Championship Feature Race at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, converting his pole position into a dominant victory. The PERTAMINA PREMA Theodore Racing driver overcame traffic and a safety car restart to secure his third victory of the season, beating Carlin’s Sergio Sette Camara by 3.1s. Championship leader George Russell completed the top three after holding off rival Lando Norris in the latter stages of the race.
Although the race was preceded by a downpour of rain, the track dried quickly prior to the start with no visible patches of water. When the lights went out, de Vries charged ahead to retain his position with consummate ease, while Sette Camara dived down the inside of a wheelspinning Russell to grab second. The opening lap was a frantic affair, and the trio of Lando Norris, Alexander Albon and Luca Ghiotto were three wide along the Kemmel Straight – Norris winning out as Antonio Fuoco swept past the latter pair in an impressive overtake at Les Combes.
By the start of the second lap, de Vries’ gap over Sette Camara stood at two seconds, while further down the field Ghiotto and Nirei Fukuzumi stole past Albon at the end of the first sector as the Thai driver struggled in the early stages. Meanwhile, RUSSIAN TIME’s Artem Markelov was making steady progress through the field, running an alternative strategy to begin the race on the medium prime compound and taking advantage of the wear sustained by those on the soft tyres. By the start of lap 4, the Russian had cleared Albon and began to chase after Fukuzumi.
Continuing to assert his dominance, de Vries continued to prise open the gap between himself and Sette Camara, extending it to five seconds by lap 6 as the pair dropped Russell by some margin. Markelov continued his march up the field, ticking off Fukuzumi and Ghiotto off his list on consecutive laps at the Bus Stop as the race wound towards the pit window for the soft tyre runners.
Starting to struggle, Russell and Norris retreated to the pits for fresh tyres on lap 8, while Sette Camara followed suit on the next lap – having been 7.5s behind de Vries at the time of his stop. Feeling the need to cover his rival, de Vries came in at the end of the tenth lap, but inauspiciously emerged from the pits in traffic, allowing Sette Camara to close the gap as Markelov assumed the lead.
Attempting to draw out the gap to de Vries, Markelov found himself losing time to the Dutchman and eventually called into the pits moments before lap 15. As soon as the Russian had re-emerged onto the track in eighth, Fukuzumi pulled over at Blanchimont with his car on fire, prompting a safety car period as de Vries and Sette Camara had reclaimed the headline positions.
The race restarted on lap 19, and immediately Sette Camara began to chase after de Vries while Norris attempted to launch a move around the outside of Russell into Les Combes – deciding discretion was the better part of valour as Russell held onto third. Markelov, meanwhile, picked up from where he’d left off and dispatched Delétraz at La Source on the following lap, immediately catching Ghiotto after Albon had passed the Italian for fifth.
Sette Camara reeled de Vries in by fractions, but his progress was in vain as de Vries elected to pick up the pace and continued to raise the bar – putting any chances of victory out of the Brazilian’s reach. With a 2.5s lead by the final lap, de Vries continued to push and added an extra 0.6s to his winning margin, as Sette Camara ended the race 4.4s ahead of third-placed Russell.
Norris finished fourth after absorbing a last-lap challenge from Albon, who had recovered to fifth after his early struggles. Markelov’s ascent up the field was stymied by a stubborn Ghiotto, but the Russian snatched sixth at the line after going around the outside at the Bus Stop chicane. Nicholas Latifi beat Maximilian Gunther to eighth – taking reverse-grid pole for Sunday’s Sprint Race, while Roy Nissany claimed a long-awaited first F2 point to complete the top 10.
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