Artem Markelov produced a display of dominance in the FIA Formula 2 Championship Sprint Race at Spielberg, Austria, leading every lap en route to a third victory of the year; the Russian Time driver crossed the finish line 5.6s clear of ART Grand Prix’s George Russell.
Finishing second, Russell assumed the championship lead, as Sergio Sette Camara took third place.
In cool, sunny conditions, Markelov led the field away at the start from teammate Tadasuke Makino, quickly leaving the Japanese driver in his wake and under attack from Sette Camara.
Meanwhile, Russell – seeking to double up on victories over the Red Bull Ring weekend – quickly dispatched championship rival Lando Norris on the first lap, and then chased after Antonio Fuoco on the following lap to ease past the Charouz Racing System racer.
Makino, weathering the storm from Sette Camara, started to nibble into Markelov’s lead as Russell continued his progress through the pack – clearing Alexander Albon as Fuoco followed him through.
Setting a quick lap to catch Sette Camara, Russell thrust his way past the Brazilian to make the step up into the top three by lap 4. Norris was next to try and pass Albon, but the Carlin driver wasn’t able to make the same progress as Russell and remained glued to the DAMS driver’s gearbox.
As Markelov stepped up the pace at the front of the field, Makino dropped back into the clutches of Russell, who made light work of the Honda development driver.
Russell looked to wind Markelov in, but the Russian had already started to open up a strong lead, building a 2.8s buffer by the end of the ninth lap to give himself some breathing space. Meanwhile, the battle for third started to heat up, with Fuoco now on Sette Camara’s tail – but was unable to capitalise on a chance to overtake him into turn 4.
Further down the field, Albon found himself conducting a large train of cars, which continued to grow throughout the race as the drivers sought to keep each other within touching distance. Conversely, Markelov continued to extend his advantage over Russell, sitting three-and-a-half seconds ahead by the race’s midpoint, with Makino holding onto third from Sette Camara – now free of the chasing Fuoco.
Sette Camara then squeezed past Makino to take control of third, leaving him to fight against Fuoco. The Italian attempted a move around the outside of turn 4, but Makino held his nerve and held on, before having to concede defeat a lap later.
As tyre degradation started to bite, the closely-collected pack behind Albon began to fight for the lower reaches of the points, Norris making a long-awaited pass on the Thai driver – who promptly reclaimed fifth two laps later as the McLaren reserve driver began to struggle.
Checking out, Markelov continued to build his advantage over Russell, entering the final five laps with a five-second lead. Although Russell attempted to eat into his lead, Markelov flexed his muscles and kept the British driver in the shade, taking a superbly-managed victory for his third visit to the top step in 2018.
Russell finished second, adding to an impressive haul of points across the weekend to take control of the championship lead from Norris, as Sette Camara completed the top three.
Fuoco, losing time at the end of the race, narrowly finished ahead of Albon – who also cleared Makino as the Japanese driver took sixth. Santino Ferrucci took seventh after a late fight with Nicholas Latifi and Nirei Fukuzumi, as the BWT Arden driver narrowly missed out on the final point.
As F2 has reached the halfway point of the season, Russell will go into next weekend’s round at Silverstone with 132 points – a 10-point lead over Norris – as Markelov leaps up to third in the championship with 94 points.
Carlin continue to lead the teams’ title with 208 points, with ART Grand Prix second on 181. Charouz Racing System move up to third with 126 points – three more than fourth-placed DAMS.