Liam Lawson has won the first Formula 2 Sprint Race of the season, and the first of his career, after an intense battle with fellow Red Bull academy member Jehan Daruvala.
Theo Pourchaire started from pole despite qualifying 11th on Friday. The 17-year-old rookie benefited from the disqualification of Juri Vips for a technical infringement, benefiting Pourchaire greatly due to the top 10 from qualifying being reversed for the first Sprint Race. Vips started from the back and will have to do the same for Sunday’s Feature Race.
Pourchaire had a horrible getaway, unable to react to the lights going out nearly immediately. Liam Lawson however was able to jump from the second row to first by Turn 1. Dan Ticktum turned Richard Verschoor, damaging Felipe Drugovich in the process. Drugovich had to pit for a new front wing on Lap 3, with his deficit to the leaders aided by a virtual safety car brought out at the same time for Marcus Armstrong whose DAMS had come to a stop at the first corner.
Ralph Boschung had also come to a stop under VSC with damage to his front wing as well. Replays showed he was caught out by Armstrong pulling off the road with a mechanical issue.
Championship hopeful Robert Shwartzman was in a hurry to make progress after a disappointing qualifying in which his Prema lost power ahead of his final run. Battling his way up from 11th on the grid, the Ferrari junior was already hot on the heels of Daruvala’s Carlin battling for P4 as the VSC was withdrawn.
Ticktum pulled off a successful, and this time clean overtaking manoeuvre, getting past fastest qualifier Guanyu Zhou for 8th place and building a healthy gap quickly, and just as well as he was slapped by a 5-second time penalty for causing a collision soon after.
An all-rookie podium looked to be off the cards with Jehan Daruvala charging down David Beckmann, bringing Shwartzman in tow. A mistake from Beckmann at Turn 10 saw the Charouz run wide, making life easier for Daruvala as he made the move stick around the outside of Turn 4 on the next lap. On lap 13, Pourchaire’s ART Grand Prix car also was struck by a mechanical issue, dropping the man from Cannes off of the podium, and out of the race, bringing out a second VSC for his stationary car.
The battle for the win became the battle of the Red Bull youth programme between Lawson and his Hitech and Daruvala and his Carlin. Daruvala’s superior knowledge of the tyres compared to rookie Lawson, with the Carlin team warning their driver of the consequences of sticking behind for too long.
Daruvala was not able to close in enough to make a move, enabling New Zealander Lawson to win on his F2 debut with David Beckmann taking the final spot on the podium. Shwartzman kept Prema teammate Piastri behind, coming home fourth and fifth respectively. Lundgaard, Zhou, Ticktum, Zendeli and Vips completed the top ten, with Vips clawing back from last at the lights to reverse grid pole for Sprint Race 2 later on today.