Charles Leclerc wins chaotic Feature Race in Azerbaijan

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Formula 2 returned for the first race of the fourth round of the 2017 Season this weekend in Baku, Azerbaijan. For the race, Charles Leclerc claimed his fourth pole position in four races, and remains as the only driver on the grid to start on pole position this season. In the 2016 race around the streets of Azerbaijan was anything to go by, the 2017 race was set to be exciting, with the circuit offering multiple overtaking opportunities to to its long straights and heavy braking zones.

Charles Leclerc wins chaotic Feature Race in Azerbaijan

When the lights went out for the race start, Leclerc got the start that he needed and led into the short run into turn 1 followed by Nicholas Latifi and Nyck De Vries who gained positions through a slow starting Nobuharu Matsushita.

By lap 2, the yellow flags were waving and a safety car was deployed after Johnny Cecotto crashed in turn 2 after leaving the pits having stalled in his grid slot on the race start. The safety car soon peeled back into the pits on lap 3 and Leclerc was in control, backing up the back before the restart.

When the flags waved green, Leclerc pulled away, jumping second placed Latifi to get a small lead going into turn 1. Latifi then fell under pressure from De Vries and dropped back to third place after he was overtaken going into turn 1 on the restart. Leclerc then started setting fastest lap after fastest lap to extend his lead from the restart.

The pit window opened on lap 7 and Antonio Fuoco, Norman Nato, Louis Deletraz, Sergio Canamasas, and Jordan King jumped into the pit lane for their mandatory pit stop onto the prime tyre. Leaving the pit lane, Canamasas closed in on Fuoco and quickly overtook the young Italian. Trying to gain the position back, Fuoco then launched an attack up the inside of Canamasas, clipping the right rear tyre of the Trident driver and losing his front wing before taking off into the air and clattering the barrier, ending his race.

Leclerc then pitted from the lead on lap 8 followed by Latifi and front row starter Matsushita while De Vries tried to perform the overcut strategy for Rapax. Pitting on lap 9, De Vries handed the lead to Russian Time’s Artem Markelov, rejoining in seventh place behind Leclerc, leaving the Monégasque driver with the net lead of the race.

Markelov then pitted from the lead to hand first place temporarily to Ralph Boschung before Luca Ghiotto overtook the Campos driver for the lead on lap 10. The virtual safety car was then deployed on lap 11, neutralizing the race after Nabil Jeffri crashed on lap 10.

When the green flag waved again on lap 11, the race resumed and drivers wasted no time in making their way through the field, with ART Grand Prix stand-in driver Sergey Sirotkin overtaking a catnapping Robert Visoiu on the restart. Leclerc then made his move to get into second place, overtaking Boschung on lap 12.

On the same lap, the yellow flags waved once again when Louis Deletraz crashed in sector 1, leading to the safety car to be deployed for the second time in the race on lap 13.

When the safety car pitted again on lap 15, the racing resumed once again, with Latifi launching an attack on De Vries going into turn 1 while De Vries jumped down the inside of third placed Boschung, gaining the place while Latifi was left on the outside, remaining in fifth place.

Luca Ghiotto pitted from first place on lap 18, handing Leclerc with the lead once again while the Monégasque driver was coming under De Vries who had just set the fastest lap. Countering this, Leclerc then put in another new fastest lap on lap 19 and again on lap 24, pulling away from his rival.

Heading into lap 25, a large battle was looming from ninth downwards, headed up by Sergio Canamasas. That lap, Canamasas fell into trouble, locking up both front wheels and being forced to the escape road, moving Robert Visoiu into ninth and Sean Gelael into tenth. Coming under pressure from Sirotkin, Gelael then made a mistake going into the castle section of the lap, crashing into the inside wall spectacularly, collecting Sirotkin, Gustav Malja, and Matsushita, blocking the road as a result.

The safety car was soon deployed followed by a red flag, stopping the race. With there only being four laps remaining of the race, it was decided that the race would not resume, handing Charles Leclerc his third Formula 2 victory of 2017. Nyck De Vries finished in second place, marking two consecutive podium finishes for the McLaren junior driver while Nicholas Latifi rounded out the podium positions for DAMS.

Amidst all of the carnage that occurred in the closing stages of the race, Artem Markelov finished in fourth place followed by Norman Nato in fifth, Jordan King in sixth, and Oliver Rowland in seventh. In the race, Rowland originally finished in fourth place, but received a 10 second time penalty for speeding under yellow flags, demoting him to seventh. Ralph Boschung finished in eighth place, handing him reverse grid pole for the Sprint Race while Sergio Canamasas and Sergey Sirotkin rounded out the points paying positions in ninth and tenth.

Formula 2 will return on June 24th for the Sprint Race around the streets of Baku. With Ralph Boschung securing the reverse grid pole for the race, it is set to be once again be exciting and the carnage of the Feature Race will likely continue.

Results from the Azerbaijan Formula 2 Feature Race:

  1. Charles Leclerc, Prema Racing, 25 points
  2. Nyck de Vries, Rapax, 18 points
  3. Nicholas Latifi, DAMS, 15 points
  4. Artem Markelov, Russian Time, 12 points
  5. Norman Nato, Pertamina Arden Racing, 10 points
  6. Jordan King, MP Motorsport, 8 points
  7. Oliver Rowland, DAMS, 6 points
  8. Ralph Boschung, Campos Racing, 4 points
  9. Sergio Canamasas, Trident, 2 points
  10. Sergey Sirotkin, ART Grand Prix, 1 point
  11. Gustav Malja, Racing Engineering, 0 points
  12. Nobuharu Matsushita, ART Grand Prix, 0 points
  13. Sergio Sette Camara, MP Motorsport, 0 points
  14. Sean Gelael, Pertamina Arden Racing, 0 points
  15. Robert Visoiu, Campos Racing, 0 points
  16. Luca Ghiotto, Russian Time, 0 points
  17. Louis Delétraz, Racing Engineering, Ret
  18. Nabil Jeffri, Trident, Ret
  19. Antonio Fuoco, Prema Racing, Ret
  20. Johnny Cecotto Jr, Rapax, Ret