F2, Austria: Verschoor’s grid gamble pays off with Feature Race win
"I called at the last minute to put the slicks on"
Richard Verschoor dominated the Formula 2 Feature Race to take his third win in the Championship and his second of the 2022 season. The Trident driver gambled with slicks on the grid while the top half of the field opted for wets, which proved to be an inspired decision. In the end, he won by some distance to the tune of 13.7s.
Jehan Daruvala and Logan Sargeant rounded out the podium. The PREMA Racing driver benefitted from a time penalty for Roberto Merhi to seal second, while Sargeant recovered from his start on wet tyres and made the podium.
Enzo Fittipaldi was just half a second off the podium in fourth with Merhi fifth. Dennis Hauger, Jake Hughes, Olli Caldwell, Ayumu Iwasa and Jüri Vips each made up the rest of the top 10.
AS IT HAPPENED
There was a mix of strategy on the grid with half the grid starting on slicks and the other half on the full wets. A dry line was beginning to form on the track surface, but the rooster tails remained on the formation lap.
Vips soared into the lead at lights out as pole-sitter Frederick Vesti bogged down and lost second to Iwasa. At Turn 4 the ART Grand Prix man took the place back, finding grip on the wet patches of track ahead of him while Iwasa was left to run over the dry line. Sargeant was wasting no time and moved clear of Jack Doohan around the outside of Turn 9 with a brave pass.
Yesterday’s winner Marcus Armstrong didn’t get close to repeating his victory. He came to a halt at Turn 3, bringing out the Safety Car. Meanwhile drivers on the wets sought out every single patch of wet track as the sun beat down during the reprieve that ended heading onto Lap 5.
Vips led comfortably at the restart, but Théo Pourchaire was on the move, clearing Doohan into Turn 3 at the first time of asking. Meanwhile, Felipe Drugovich tumbled down the order, falling from within the top 10 to 18th on his overheating wet tyres. Those on slicks were comfortably quicker than anyone on wets entering Lap 6. Verschoor and Daruvala cleared Sargeant and Iwasa with ease in the space of one corner onto the seventh lap. The Trident driver then secured the lead with Daruvala and Merhi close in tow.
Everyone who had started on wets was in for the slick tyres at the end of the lap. After his fast start, Pourchaire suffered a slow stop and re-joined behind Drugovich in P19. The damage was done though, with the lead runner who started on wets, Vesti, some 40 seconds down on Roy Nissany, the lowest-placed runner on slicks.
Merhi was enjoying his deputising role and was up to second on Lap 11, sliding down the inside of Daruvala into Turn 3, up 19 positions from where he started the race. The PREMA Racing driver was in at the end of the lap for his mandatory pit stop and switch to mediums.
Sargeant was on the move once again, this time taking 12th from Vesti into Turn 3 with DRS assistance. Merhi, Dennis Hauger and Enzo Fittipaldi were in on the next lap to make their stops. A sticky left rear cost the Norwegian position to the Charouz Racing System driver.
The American’s charge continued on Lap 15 at the expense of Hauger, clearing his rival into T3 once more. He was by Fittipaldi around the outside of Turn 6 on the next tour and quickly on the rear wing of teammate Liam Lawson. Another dive to the inside of Turn 3 gave the American P4. His enthusiasm to push might have earned him places early on but it put him under pressure from the Brazilian, who’d saved his tyres a little more than the Carlin driver and was trailing by just 0.5s.
Doohan’s podium in the Sprint Race was now a distant memory. He was relegated to 17th by Calan Williams on Lap 26 and collected two-time penalties for track limits violations. Meanwhile at the front, the other Trident was flying. Verschoor’s lead was up to over five seconds heading into the final 10 laps of the race. That advantage was up to 8.5s with five remaining, the Dutch driver in a class of one out in front.
Merhi broke into DRS range of Daruvala in second in the final five laps. The Campos Racing driver trailed the PREMA by just 0.6s with three laps remaining. On the penultimate lap, Daruvala was wide at Turn 1 allowing Merhi to force him defensive into Turn 3. A nice switchback for the Spaniard gave him the inside line at Turn 4 and he got the move done for second. His hard work was undone though for exceeding track limits, and he received a five-second time penalty moments after securing the pass.
Verschoor was untroubled and took victory by almost 10 seconds in the end. His only problem was stopping on track on the cooldown lap. Merhi crossed the line P2 but was demoted to fifth which left Daruvala and Sargeant to fill out the rest of the podium.
Fittipaldi ended up P4 with Merhi falling to fifth. Hauger was followed by Hughes, Caldwell, Iwasa – who also received a track limits time penalty - and Vips, who capped off the top 10.
KEY QUOTE – Richard Verschoor, Trident
“Really happy to win that race. We took the gamble at the start, I called at the last minute to put the slicks on. The first two or three laps were really tricky, but we managed to keep position more or less and from there on out, we had a really good race and a good race pace, so I’m really happy.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
Felipe Drugovich remains in the lead of the Drivers’ Standings despite his non-score. Pourchaire also failed to register any points in the Feature Race and remains 40 points off his rival. Sargeant sits in third ahead of Daruvala, 105 points to 98 respectively. Verschoor’s victory lifts him into fifth position, now on 70 points.
In the Teams’ Standings, neither leaders MP Motorsport nor ART Grand Prix managed to score. Sargeant’s podium finish lifts Carlin to third on 164, three points ahead of PREMA Racing who sit fourth ahead of Hitech Grand Prix in fifth.
Formula 2 returns to Le Castellet next weekend for Round 9 of the 2022 Championship.
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