As expected, the heavens opened over the weekend, having the biggest effect on the outcome of Saturday’s Sprint Race.
The 26-lap race got going under the Safety Car in full-wet conditions. The Invicta Virtuosi car of Amaury Cordeel started on reverse grid pole, but it was unlikely that the Belgian would hang on to the lead.
Contact between Jak Crawford and Frederik Vesti on the opening lap ruined the former’s race with a broken front suspension arm, while the latter waltzed past Cordeel for first position and never looked back.
Juan-Manuel Correa beached his Van Amersfoort Racing car in the gravel, which brought out the Safety Car again. As it peeled in with three laps to go, Theo Pourchaire displayed a couple of brilliant overtakes on a now-dry racetrack to get past Dennis Hauger and Victor Martins to finish second behind his Championship rival.
Prema back in power
On the other hand, the Feature race was relatively relaxed at the front of the field. A commanding victory for Oliver Bearman, the youngest driver on this year’s grid.
The Briton is now cementing himself as a potential Formula 1 prospect if he continues to improve at the current rate, and has proven that his dominance in Baku was no fluke.
His teammate Vesti made an alternate strategy work to gain three positions from his grid slot and finish fifth. Starting on the hard tyre, the Danish driver made a late charge through the field on the closing stages of the race, including a double overtake on Hauger and Zane Maloney for seventh.
Crucially, Vesti got past Pourchaire on lap 27, extending his lead in the Drivers’ Standings to 11 points.
Italian team Prema suffered a difficult start to the season, scoring no points in the first round in Bahrain. Since then they have taken victory at all but one of the Feature races to maintain a foothold on the lead of the Teams’ Championship by 36 points over ART Grand Prix. Back to usual business for Prema, who have been Teams’ Champion in two of the last three seasons.
Brad Benavides penalised
More misery piled on F2 rookie Brad Benavides’ horrendous 2023 campaign as 30 seconds worth of penalties were awarded to the PHM Racing by Charouz driver in the Feature race, ensuring he finished in last place as he usually does.
The American driver fell foul of track limits a record five times, handing himself a ten-second penalty. But the pit crew failed to remain stationary for the full ten seconds when he was serving the punishment, incurring a drive-through penalty.
Since Benavides didn’t serve the drive-through during the race, this was duly converted into a 30-second penalty in accordance with regulations. Admittedly, this all harkens back to Esteban Ocon and Alpine’s shenanigans in Bahrain, but Benavides will be hoping to forget this as soon as possible.