F2, Austria, Sprint race: Armstrong reigns supreme with lights-to-flag display

Pourchaire clung on to the 2nd step of the podium ahead of Doohan

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By Olivier Ferret

9 July 2022 - 19:32
F2, Austria, Sprint race: Armstrong (...)

In a league of his own from start to finish, Marcus Armstrong commanded the field to take his second victory of the 2022 season in Spielberg. While an ideal getaway off the line helped, it was as much about keeping within the track limits as it was about speed and the Hitech Grand Prix driver expertly managed both.

Thèo Pourchaire clung on to the second step of the podium ahead of Jack Doohan, whose late charge put the ART Grand Prix driver under immense pressure. Felipe Drugovich’s consistency continued with fourth, as Jüri Vips climbed up the order from ninth to fifth.

Richard Verschoor gave it his all to keep a rapid Logan Sargeant at bay for sixth and Ayumu Iwasa rounded out the points scorers in eighth.

AS IT HAPPENED

As the sun beamed down on the Red Bull Ring Armstrong was ready to shine lining up on reverse grid pole. Seizing the opportunity with both hands, the New Zealander aced his start to keep Pourchaire behind. However, his getaway wasn’t a patch on Drugovich’s. The orange MP Motorsport car launched right in between Verschoor and Doohan when the five lights when green, but unfortunately for the Brazilian there was no room to squeeze through.

While the rest of the field got away cleanly, elbows were already out in the fight for the podium. Banging wheels into Turn 1, Doohan managed to make his way past Verschoor and sent the Trident driver back into Drugovich’s clutches, who soon found his own path through into fourth.

On the fringes of the points-paying positions, Frederik Vesti nipped his way past Enzo Fittipaldi into Turn 3, promoting the ART driver to ninth. Meanwhile, Armstrong set about pulling free of Pourchaire, clocking in a fastest lap to pull over a second clear of the Frenchman on Lap 5.

However, track limit warnings were looming over several drivers’ heads, as they fought to keep their cars within the white line. The arrival of DRS allowed a four-car battle to form for fifth, as Verschoor, Vips, Sargeant and Iwasa formed a train along the Spielberg straights.

Up ahead, Drugovich began nipping at Doohan’s heels, as the Australian had fallen well out of the leading duo’s DRS range. Despite his early overtake, Vesti and Fittipaldi’s fight over ninth was far from over. A wide moment for the Dane allowed Fittipaldi to leap ahead, before the ART driver repaid the favour down the next straight and he dived back up the inside of the Charouz Racing System driver. However, the black and white ART had pushed it too far and was awarded a five-second time penalty for track limits, effectively derailing his race.

Not content with sitting in a DRS train, Vips launched himself up into fifth with a move on Verschoor. PREMA Racing also had their own inter-team battle on their hands. Dennis Hauger made swift work of getting past Jehan Daruvala into Turn 3 for 11th and tried to claw back some of the gap to Fittipaldi ahead.

At the back of the field, Liam Lawson’s day went from bad to worse, having stalled on the Formation Lap his Carlin came to a halt on the outside of Turn 3 to trigger a Virtual Safety Car on Lap 13. While the field was neutralised, the Red Bull junior began limping back to the pits and into retirement.

Once racing resumed, Vesti was already searching for a way past Iwasa for eighth as he sought to salvage something from the race following his penalty. The top five had begun to spread themselves out, as Vips’ DRS gave Verschoor the extra straight-line speed to hold off Sargeant. However, that wouldn’t last forever. The American driver wasted no time getting right into his wing mirrors when Verschoor dropped out of Vips’ DRS range, but time and time again he found the door firmly shut into Turn 4.

With an element of uncertainty and the risk of a time penalty for violating track limits, Pourchaire opted to tread carefully. That overly cautious approach allowed Doohan to catch him by surprise and started a shootout for P2 with five laps to go.

However, it was all about Armstrong out front and there was nobody who could come close to denying him a third F2 victory in a triumphant style. Despite the DRS advantage, Doohan couldn’t find his way through on Pourchaire for second, ahead of Drugovich and Vips. Verschoor’s valiant defence was rewarded with a sixth-place finish, as Sargeant and Iwasa brought home the final points in seventh and eighth.

KEY QUOTE – Marcus Armstrong, Hitech Grand Prix

“Good to be back in the press conference room with Tom (Clarkson) and all the rest of them! It was a good race. It was stressful towards the end because I’m not really certain on the track limit rules, so I was just praying that I didn’t run off or do anything silly and just bring it home. It’s good to get it in the pocket.”

THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW

There’s no change in the top four of the Drivers’ Championship, as Felipe Drugovich holds on to the top spot with 154 points. Thèo Pourchaire has slightly closed the gap to 40 points, as Logan Sargeant remains the highest placed rookie in third, 10 points clear of Jehan Daruvala. The Sprint Race victory promotes Marcus Armstrong to fifth on 69 points.

In the Teams’ Championship, MP Motorsport continue to lead the way, six points clear of ART Grand Prix. Carlin remain third ahead of PREMA Racing, as Hitech Grand Prix’s double top five finish puts them right on the Italian team’s tail.

WHAT’S NEXT

Fans won’t have to wait long for their next fix of Formula 2 action. The drivers will have one last chance to duel it out around the Red Bull Ring in the Feature Race at 10:05 local time.

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