Redemption for Russell with Baku F2 Sprint Race Win
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Reserve Driver George Russell struck back from yesterday with a brilliant victory in the FIA Formula 2 Sprint Race, after a storming drive from 12th on the grid.
After heartbreak in the Feature Race yesterday, where ART Grand Prix Driver George Russell led for the majority of the race - before being forced off the track on a safety car restart, today saw Russell fired up for second race of the weekend.
The FIA F2 Sprint Race started in incredibly gusty conditions in the Baku City Circuit. Russell made an electric start from the sixth row of the grid, slaloming between multiple slow starting and stalled cars on the grid to move himself up to 6th position after Turn 1.
Russell was right behind fellow Briton and F2 Championship leader Lando Norris, as the pair set a pace that saw them claw up to the leading pack. The first laps of the race saw a stalemate between the drivers, with them all making use of DRS on the long 2.1km back straight.
This led to drivers having to make use of the second DRS zone on the run down into Turn 4.
Norris managed to make his way past MP Motorsports Ralph Boschung, with Russell following suit a couple of laps later down the main straight and into Turn 1.
Russell caught up to the back of Norris quickly, as the Carlin driver was battling with DAMS' Nicholas Latifi. Norris made a move past Latifi at Turn 1 on lap 7, however Latifi came back at him - putting Russell right on the back of the pair of them battling for 2nd position.
This led to a brilliant slipstream battle down the main straight, as the trio went three wide into turn one.
Russell went to the inside, but was cautious under braking on the dirty side of the track. Norris went around the outside, but out-braked himself - leading to him having to turn around in the run-off area and dropping down to 7th position.
Russell stayed in pursuit of Latifi, making the move past him and into 2nd position the next lap around down the main straight.
With the Briton now up into 2nd place, he set about making inroads into the gap to leader Sergio Sette Camara - who had established a four second advantage over the pack behind.
Russell managed to haul in the leader at a rate of 0.7s per lap , further helped by the Brazilian having a big 'lock up' on lap 13. This brought Russell onto the back of the Carlin driver on lap 15. He passed Sette Camara into Turn 1 on lap 18, but the Brazilian faught back - surviving another huge 'lock up' into Turn 4 to just stay in the lead of the race.
This presented a great opportunity for Russell, who took the lead into Turn 1 next lap around - making the most of his superior pace and tyre life.
Now the race leader, Russell was able to sprint away and pull out a 1.4s gap within one lap, large enough to move himself out of DRS range from any threat from behind.
Russell took the chequered flag to secure his maiden FIA Formula 2 victory by 2.6s from Sette Camara and Prema Racing's Nyck de Vries, completing his redemption around the streets of Baku - where he had the pace to win both races had luck been more on his side.
George Russell "I knew I had incredible pace over the course of this weekend and after Bahrain, obviously we saw what happened yesterday and I was extremely gutted to lose out on the win. I had the worst night’s sleep of the year last night just thinking about what happened, and if there was anything I could have done differently.
We were easily fastest yesterday, so I knew that today – even starting from P12 – we could win the race and that’s exactly what we did.
I’m incredibly happy, delighted to get that win and have something to show for it rather than ifs and buts. I’m feeling really good, we’ve been comfortably the fastest in three out of the four races this season so we’ve got to capitalise on that."
After two rounds and four races of the 2018 FIA F2 Championship, Russell currently sits 6th overall in the Driver's Standings on 27 points after his Sprint Race win and the points awarded for Fastest Lap.
His team ART Grand Prix move up to 3rd in the Team's Championship after the opening rounds.
The next round of the Formula 2 Championship takes place at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, on the 11-13 May 2018 for the third round of the championship.