World of Sport: For­mula 2; GP3; Aus­tralian Su­per­cars; World Ral­lycross

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - JACK BENYON

FOR­MULA 2 YAS MA­RINA (UAE) NOVEM­BER 24-25 ROUND 12/12

Most of the Abu Dhabi week­end re­flected the For­mula 2 sea­son per­fectly. Ge­orge Rus­sell showed sear­ing pace and dom­i­na­tion on the track, was able to get into his op­po­nents’ heads, and so wrapped up the ti­tle. There were start­pro­ce­dure prob­lems with the se­ries’ new-for-2018 car, a fight­back for An­to­nio Fuoco from a bad qual­i­fy­ing to win the sprint race, and tricky tyre man­age­ment. It had a bit of ev­ery­thing.

Rus­sell’s fea­ture-race win means he matches the sea­son record of seven vic­to­ries shared by Stof­fel Van­doorne and Charles Le­clerc, and em­u­lates Le­clerc’s achieve­ment of rookie GP3 Se­ries and F2 ti­tle tri­umphs. He also joins Lewis Hamil­ton, Nico Hulken­berg and Nico Ros­berg as driv­ers to win the se­ries at their first shot.

You could ar­gue that the hard work was done in qual­i­fy­ing. “Emo­tion­ally, I’ve never felt that way af­ter a pole be­cause I knew how im­por­tant it was,” said ART Grand Prix star Rus­sell. The sub­se­quent four points took his lead up to 41, mean­ing eighth place would guar­an­tee the crown.

By con­trast, Alexan­der Al­bon didn’t get enough heat into his front Pirellis, and im­me­di­ately knew his lap was go­ing to be rub­bish. He started eighth, know­ing his fo­cus needed to turn to Lando Nor­ris, who was set to close the gap to him in the cham­pi­onship in the fight for sec­ond place.

The race went awry im­me­di­ately. Al­bon stalled from his grid box, as did DAMS team-mate Ni­cholas Lat­ifi in third. Not only did Al­bon see his ti­tle chances slip away, he had to watch Lat­ifi be hit at high speed by 19th-place starter Ar­jun Maini. The Tri­dent man couldn’t avoid the stranded car, and af­ter­wards praised Dal­lara for its strong chas­sis as both driv­ers were un­hurt.

The prob­lems with the clutch stemmed from a warm and sticky track sur­face, al­lied to the su­per­soft Pirellis, which gave the cars more grip and nar­rowed the start-pro­ce­dure op­er­at­ing win­dow.

Rus­sell also got a slow start, los­ing first place to Nyck de Vries. He made his opin­ion clear on the F2 start­ing is­sue af­ter the race, say­ing: “This is some­thing that ab­so­lutely has to change for next year – it’s un­ac­cept­able.” He was clearly im­pas­sioned, even though he won’t be re­turn­ing to the se­ries as he takes up his Wil­liams F1 seat.

The safety car pe­riod for Lat­ifi and

Maini short­ened the run­ning needed on the su­per­soft tyre, chang­ing the an­tic­i­pated race strat­egy. Rus­sell made the de­ci­sion him­self to do the op­po­site to de Vries on lap eight of 29 and, when de Vries stayed out, Rus­sell dived in. Mak­ing a strat­egy call like that in a ti­tle bat­tle takes guts, but there was no hes­i­ta­tion.

A lap later he sailed up the in­side of de Vries into Turn 5 as the Prema Rac­ing driver emerged on cold tyres. The Dutch­man was not will­ing to sac­ri­fice his rub­ber by fight­ing an in-the-swing Rus­sell.

And with that, the race fol­lowed the script. Rus­sell ex­tended his gap, brought the car home and cel­e­brated in style with a de­served ti­tle win. He’s been the class of the F2 field by a coun­try mile.

Be­hind, Artem Markelov passed de Vries

with six laps to go and looked men­ac­ing. But as soon as he pumped in a fly­ing lap, Rus­sell re­sponded and that was that.

Rus­sian Time man Markelov was lucky to hold on to sec­ond. Luca Ghiotto started 16th on the soft tyre in­stead of the su­per­softs in an off-sync strat­egy. He made the change late on and was as much as six sec­onds per lap quicker than the fron­trun­ners, but a track-lim­its penalty cost him 5s and the run­ner-up spot. Not a bad Sat­ur­day drive from Cam­pos Rac­ing’s Ital­ian, though.

Fuoco (Charouz Rac­ing Sys­tem) won the sprint race af­ter tak­ing the lead from pole­sit­ter Roberto Merhi. Nor­ris pres­sured Merhi early on, but looked to have dropped away. He then closed in and hounded the Spa­niard, forc­ing him into an er­ror at

Turn 8 to take sec­ond at the close. That re­warded Nor­ris with sec­ond place in the cham­pi­onship, to add to the teams’ ti­tle that Car­lin had won the day be­fore.

It was a just re­ward for a bril­liant team per­for­mance through­out the sea­son on Car­lin’s re­turn to F2/GP2 af­ter a one-year ab­sence. Ser­gio Sette Ca­mara con­trib­uted strongly to that ef­fort in the sec­ond car, although he suf­fered a night­mare week­end in Abu Dhabi, stalling twice.

Merhi set­tled for third ahead of Rus­sell, who had pulled off the save of the week­end when his car’s rear stepped out when he tried to pass Nor­ris up the in­side of Turn 1 on the first lap. Had that move gone dif­fer­ently, it could have cost Nor­ris sec­ond in the stand­ings, a re­sult he was des­per­ate to se­cure be­fore step­ping up to F1.

Stalled Lat­ifi was struck by Maini

Nor­ris se­cured sec­ond in the points in his fi­nal race with Car­lin

Rus­sell kept ti­tle odds in his favour by cov­er­ing off de Vries

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