Charles Leclerc dominates in Feature Race to win in Austria

Formula 2 returned this weekend for the ninth race of 2017 in Austria. Chris Soulsby looks at the Feature Race, which saw Charles Leclerc secure his fourth win of 2017.

After topping practice and claiming his fifth consecutive pole position, Charles Leclerc’s dominance of Formula 2 in 2017 looked set to continue in Austria for the Feature Race around the Red Bull Ring. Starting alongside Leclerc was Antonio Fuoco, who was promoted to the front row of the grid when Sergio Sette Camara was disqualified from qualifying for not having enough fuel in his MP Motorsport car, dropping him to the back of the grid.

Charles Leclerc dominates in Feature Race to win in Austria

When the lights went out for the ninth race of the 2017 Season, Leclerc took the lead immediately, holding off Antonio Fuoco into the first corner while Alexander Albon held onto third from Nobuharu Matsushita. Nicholas Latifi quickly moved up into fifth after starting in eighth, jumping Oliver Rowland off the line and gaining one position after Nyck de Vries stalled on the formation lap.

Latifi then attempted to move into fourth, racing side-by-side with Matsushita for the second half of the first lap. Unable to perform the overtake, Latifi fell into the clutches of Rowland, dropping down to sixth place temporarily when his team mate overtook him before regaining the position in turn 7.

Artem Markelov quickly became the early pacesetter for Russian Time with the fastest lap, allowing him to close in on Oliver Rowland before he was overtaken by Norman Nato on lap 3. Charles Leclerc took fastest lap away from Markelov on lap 4 before Nato began to slow from seventh, retiring from the race with a mechanical failure.

There was then action in the pit lane when Nicholas Latifi pitted onto the soft tyres of lap 6 as Jordan King and Sergio Canamasas followed him in on the same lap. DAMS then pitted Rowland one lap later, meaning that he rejoined in 13th behind Latifi while Luca Ghiotto stalled in the pit lane. After drivers filtered through the pits, Latifi emerged as the lead driver on the supersoft-soft strategy, 39 seconds behind Leclerc who remained as the race leader having not yet pit.

With half of the field coming into the pits, fastest lap after fastest lap began to get set, with Louis Deletraz going fastest on lap 9, Rowland on lap 10, and Ghiotto on lap 11, before Rowland again went faster on lap 12, overtaking Latifi for eighth place.

While Rowland began to close in on the lead pack, a battle for the final points paying positions erupted, with Ralph Boschung overtaking Jordan King for tenth place on lap 15. Deletraz then tried to follow his fellow countryman through, but King fought back with DRS, reclaiming 11th from the Racing Engineering driver.

Rowland then passed Trident’s stand-in driver Raffaele Marciello for seventh place and then overtook Sette Camara with ease for sixth as Latifi followed his team mate through when their rival drivers pitted.

A near spin from Louis Deletraz on the exit of turn 1 put the Swiss racer under pressure from Sean Gelael who quickly launched an attack up the inside of turn 3, pushing Deletraz wide on the exit and off the road, making him vulnerable from Sergio Canamasas. Desperate to hold onto what was now 12th place, Deletraz squeezed Canamasas going into turn 4, pushing the Spaniard onto the grass.

The leaders then pitted as Fuoco stopped on lap 31 to rejoin in sixth behind Rowland and Leclerc pitted on lap 32 to rejoin in second. This marked the first lead change of the race as Nobuharu Matsushita nudged into first place before pitting one lap later, again handing Leclerc the lead.

After setting the fastest lap, Fuoco fought back against Rowland to regain what had become second place, although Rowland attempted to close back in on the Italian. Nicholas Latifi however, who was now in fourth place, had other plans, overtaking Rowland around the outside of turn 6 to move into the podium positions.

With the laps ticking down, Latifi was the fastest man out on track, and with second place still within reach for the Canadian, settling for the third was something that didn’t cross his mind. On lap 38, he then overtook Fuoco with a diving move into turn 1. Next up was Leclerc and Latifi began to close on the leader but ran out of laps when Leclerc crossed the line on lap 40 to win his fourth race of 2017 so far.

Latifi’s second place marked the highest finishing position of his Formula 2 career so far and was his third consecutive podium in the series while Fuoco’s third place marked his first podium of 2017.

Oliver Rowland came home in fourth, unable to challenge Fuoco for the final step of the podium. He was followed by Alexander Albon who continued his 100% points scoring record in Formula 2 by finishing in fifth while Nobuharu Matsushita finished in sixth. Ralph Boschung secured the highest finishing position of his F2 career so far by finishing in seventh for Campos Racing while Artem Markelov finished in eighth, meaning that he will start on pole for the Sprint Race. Jordan King came home in ninth place and Sean Gelael rounded out the points paying positions in tenth place to become the 17th different points scorer this season.

Results from the Austrian Formula 2 Feature Race:

  1. Charles Leclerc, Prema Racing, 25 points
  2. Nicholas Latifi, DAMS, 18 points
  3. Antonio Fuoco, Prema Racing, 15 points
  4. Oliver Rowland, 12 points
  5. Alexander Albon, ART Grand Prix, 10 points
  6. Nobuharu Matsushita, ART Grand Prix, 8 points
  7. Ralph Boschung, Campos Racing, 6 points
  8. Artem Markelov, Russian Time, 4 points
  9. Jordan King, MP Motorsport, 2 points
  10. Sean Gelael, Pertamina Arden Racing, 1 point
  11. Robert Visoiu, Campos Racing, 0 points
  12. Gustav Malja, Racing Engineering, 0 points
  13. Nyck de Vries, Rapax, 0 points
  14. Luca Ghiotto, Russian Time, 0 points
  15. Sergio Canamasas, Rapax, 0 points
  16. Sergio Sette Camara, MP Motorsport, 0 points
  17. Louis Delétraz, Racing Engineering, 0 points
  18. Nabil Jeffri, Trident, 0 points
  19. Raffaele Marciello, Trident, 0 points
  20. Norman Nato, Pertamina Arden Racing, Ret

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