Spa, Race 2: Latifi imperious in Sprint Race victory
Canadian driver scores first win of 2018 in Belgium
Nicholas Latifi led from lights to flag for victory in the FIA Formula 2 Championship Sprint Race at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, converting a reverse-grid pole into his first win of 2018. Disappearing into the distance in the opening laps, Latifi was well ahead of a final-lap battle for second place, which was ultimately won by Carlin’s Lando Norris who was able to hold off Latifi’s DAMS teammate Alexander Albon – who joined the duo on the podium.
In cold, sunny conditions, Latifi enjoyed a strong getaway at the start as Feature Race winner Nyck de Vries rocketed off the line to swoop from eighth to third by the first corner. Meanwhile, Norris briefly surged ahead of Artem Markelov for fourth before dropping behind the Russian as Albon drew closer, as continued battles down the field made for a frenetic first lap. At the opening of the next lap, Latifi’s lead over second-placed Luca Ghiotto stood at 1.2s.
Norris was all over Markelov once more by the end of lap 2, and attempted to fire past on the Kemmel Straight – although the RUSSIAN TIME driver was resolute in his defence. The British driver kept pushing, and his persistence was rewarded two laps later as he found his way past on the back straight with DRS, while de Vries cannoned past Ghiotto ahead of them.
Although de Vries was quick, Latifi was able to extend his lead to 3.1s, while Ghiotto fell into the clutches of Norris and Markelov – both passing the Italian ahead of the race’s midpoint. Albon was next to challenge the Campos driver, having overcome the threat of championship leader George Russell earlier on in the race. A wide moment at Raidillon for Ghiotto on the tenth lap was all Albon needed to charge past, allowing the Thai driver to chase after Markelov.
Latifi seemed untouchable at the front, and despite de Vries’ best efforts the Canadian was able to keep his lead completely intact, before beginning to build it up even further in the final five laps. Further down the field, the action raged on; BWT Arden’s Maximilian Gunther had seemingly started to struggle with tyre wear, and was easy pickings for the trio of Tadasuke Makino, Louis Delétraz and Arjun Maini before retreating to the pitlane.
With three laps remaining, de Vries had fallen five seconds behind Latifi, and was beginning to drop back towards the chasing Norris. Albon, meanwhile, had passed Markelov to begin his pursuit of Norris – bringing the Russian in tow to set up a thrilling final-lap showdown for second position. De Vries was in an uncomfortable position as the three cars behind him hunted him down with DRS, and the PREMA driver lost places to both Norris and Albon into Les Combes.
Albon wasn’t quite done, and was immediately looking to cruise past Norris into the downhill run to Bruxelles. However, he had to concede defeat as Norris was inch perfect in keeping Albon at bay, and the pair crossed the line 10 seconds behind Latifi. De Vries managed to hang on from the advances of Markelov on the final lap, while Ghiotto was a further 8.7s behind the pair. Russell was seventh, beating Maini who had masterminded a late surge to eighth to dispatch Sergio Sette Camara late on.
In the Drivers’ Championship, Russell’s lead to Norris has been slashed to just five points, with the leader sitting on 188 points. Albon remains third with 161 points. Carlin continue to lead the Teams’ Championship with 307 points, with ART Grand Prix second on 249. DAMS are third with 216. The next round will take place at Monza, Italy next weekend from the 31 August – 2 September.