Formula 2 returned for the second race of this weekend at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, for the 26 lap Sprint Race. With Charles Leclerc winning the Feature Race in a dominant drive, many eyes were on the Monégasque to see if he could finish on the podium for the fourth time in four races, starting down in eighth place. With the field being reversed for the Sprint Race, Artem Markelov started from pole, with Gustav Malja lining up alongside him in second place. Nicholas Latifi started the race in third while Alexander Albon started in fourth. Nobuharu Matsushita lined up in fifth place.
Nobuharu Matsushita secures Formula 2 Sprint Race victory in Spain
When the lights went out for the race, the 20 drivers on the grid shot out of their grid slots. Within seconds of the lights going out, Nicholas Latifi took the lead for DAMS, shooting into first place from third when pole sitter Markelov had a poor getaway.
By the end of the first lap, Latifi led by multiple seconds from Gustav Malja and Alexander Albon, while Artem Markelov ended up down in ninth place through his poor start. The Safety Car was soon deployed at the end of the first lap for an accident between Antonio Fuoco and Nyck de Vries, backing up the field until the restart.
When the Safety Car peeled into the pits at the end of the second lap, the race was once again resumed, and Latifi extended his lead from the rest of the field. Further down the pack in the midfield, Charles Leclerc began to muscle his way through the pack, overtaking Jordan King on lap four, putting himself up into seventh place. Markelov then followed him through, pushing King down to ninth place.
One lap later on lap five, there was a change towards the front, with Oliver Rowland overtaking Luca Ghiotto for fourth place into the first corner, assisted through DRS.
With Ghiotto losing pace and dropping down the field, the pack was backed up and a train of cars soon formed, led by the Russian Time driver and followed by Alexander Albon, Leclerc, and Markelov.
In this battle, Leclerc tried to pass Albon in turn ten but didn’t manage it and settled back into the train. There wasn’t a change in position here until lap 11, when Albon managed to clear Ghiotto for fifth place. Leclerc then followed his former team through, putting himself up into sixth.
A few laps later, the battle at the front began to heat up, with Gustav Malja beginning to close in on Latifi and Nobuharu Matsushita closing in on both in third place. Matsushita went on to overtake Malja on lap 14, putting himself up to second place in the race.
Suffering from a lockup into turn one and heavy vibrations, Malja fell into the clutches of Oliver Rowland, dropping out of the podium positions like a stone and into the regions of the battle that was looming between Albon and Leclerc for fifth and sixth place.
After Leclerc finally cleared Albon on lap 20 after being stuck behind him for many laps, the Monégasque driver then passed Malja, putting himself into fourth place on lap 21.
Drama then flooded the track one lap later when yellow flags waved in sector one for the race leader, Nicholas Latifi, who ran wide going into turn five, dragging his car through the gravel trap on the outside of the corner. This off handed Matsushita the lead and dropped Latifi down to second. The Canadian driver then came under pressure from his team mate who was in third place, with Rowland overtaking him going into turn ten, pushing Latifi down to the final podium place.
On lap 26, Nobuharu Matsushita crossed the line, securing his first Formula 2 victory. Oliver Rowland followed him across the line in second place, while Latifi came home in third after failing to pass his team mate on lap 23.
Charles Leclerc narrowly missed out on another podium finish, crossing the line in fourth place for Prema.
Jordan King finished the race in fifth place for MP Motorsport after a hard charge through the pack in the final few laps, overtaking Albon and Malja.
Malja crossed the line in sixth place, securing some much needed points for Racing Engineering, while Luca Ghiotto finished in seventh place, overtaking Albon on the final lap of the race.
Alexander Albon finished in the final points paying position, hanging onto eighth place while under pressure from Artem Markelov who started on pole.
With the Formula 2 grid heading to Monaco for the third round of the 2017 season, many eyes will remain on Matsushita to see if he can do similar performances for ART Grand Prix in a race weekend where he has had success, winning the GP2 Sprint Race on the circuit in 2016. Eyes will also be on Oliver Rowland to see if he can secure his first Formula 2 win after finishing on the podium in three of the last four races.
Results from the Spanish Formula 2 Sprint Race:
- Nobuharu Matsishita, ART Grand Prix, 15 points
- Oliver Rowland, DAMS, 12 points
- Nicholas Latifi, DAMS, 10 points
- Charles Leclerc, Prema Racing, 8 points
- Jordan King, MP Motorsport, 6 points
- Gustav Malja, Racing Engineering, 4 points
- Luca Ghiotto, Russian Time, 2 points
- Alexander Albon, ART Grand Prix, 1 point
- Artem Markelov, Russian Time, 0 points
- Johnny Cecotto, Rapax, 0 points
- Sergio Canamasas, Trident, 0 points
- Roberto Merhi, Campos Racing, 0 points
- Norman Nato, Pertamina Arden Racing, 0 points
- Louis Delétraz, Racing Engineering, 0 points
- Sergio Sette Camara, MP Motorsport, 0 points
- Sean Gelael, Pertamina Arden Racing, 0 points
- Ralph Boschung, Campos Racing, 0 points
- Nabil Jeffri, Trident, 0 points
- Nyck de Vries, Rapax, Ret
- Antonio Fuoco, Prema Racing, Ret