Russell Crowned FIA Formula 2 Champion with 7th Victory
George Russell sealed the 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship in the perfect way, after taking his 7th victory of the season, in the FIA F2 Feature Race at Abu Dhabi.
The 2019 Williams Formula One Driver would start from pole position, after topping the Qualifying session yesterday for the potential championship deciding race.
As the light went out, Prema Racing's Nyck de Vries made the best start to move into the lead of the race - with Russell close behind in 2nd position.
A lengthy 6-lap Safety Car period occurred following a big start-line collision, which saw the Trident of Arjun Maini hit the DAMS car of Nicholas Latifi. Title rival Alexander Albon also stalled on the grid, as well as Sergio Sette Camara.
Albon and Sette Camara rejoined, albeit a lap down on the rest of the field - although they unlapped themselves at the end of the Safety Car.
As the race got back underway, Russell was all over the back of de Vries - almost clipping the back of the Prema driver through Turn 8, before heading down the back straight.
Despite piling on the pressure for the lead, Russian Time's Artem Marelov was in close attention to Russell - before the ART Grand Prix driver pitted for Soft compound tyres on Lap 8.
Russell put in a brilliant out lap, coming out just behind de Vries as the latter exited the pits, before sending an overtake up the inside into Turn 5 and retook the lead of the race.
Despite his rival having DRS enabled, Russell made full use of his tyres being up to temperature to move himself out of threat from behind.
The next stage of the race saw Russell manage his tyres and the gap behind the de Vries, as Luca Ghiotto in the Campos ran the 'Alternative Strategy'.
Russell was able to keep the gap behind to de Vries around the 1.5-2.0 seconds mark as the race developed over half distance. This gap increased in the final third, as Russell appeared to have it under control managing his tyres, pulling the gap out to over 3.3 seconds over Markelov who now took 2nd position.
Ghiotto managed to extend his tyre run to Lap 25 and emerged as a threat for victory, but earned a 5-second time penalty after gaining an advantage by cutting the circuit at Turn 10.
He emerged in 5th position after pitting for Super-Soft Pirelli Tyres and setting an electric pace, which he used to vault up to 3rd in the final laps.
However his tyres degraded, leaving Russell to manage the final two laps at the head of the field and on his way to the title.
Russell took the chequered flag after a great display of tyre management to take win number 7 of the season, as well as the FIA Formula 2 Championship in the process.
George Russell " It’s a huge sigh of relief to be honest! It’s been a very long and tough year for myself and ART. We’ve worked really hard and probably from Baku, we’ve been one of the quickest on track every single time. We’ve had a number of issues that have been hugely frustrating, but others have as well and it’s been a little difficult to get this across the line. But that pole yesterday you saw the emotions there, and obviously we knew what we had to do today: to win it in style, and that’s what we did.
With his FIA F2 Championship success, Russell joins the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Nico Hulkenberg, Stoffel Vandoorne and Charles Leclerc - in becoming champions at this level and graduating into Formula One the following season.
This title also meant that Russell has won the GP3 Series and FIA F2 Championships back-to-back, winning both of the Formula One feeder series championships as a Rookie. Which underlines his quality, as he prepares to step into a Williams F1 seat in 2019.
The final race of the 2018 season takes place at 13:35 (GMT +4) tomorrow, where Russell will start from 8th on the grid in the partially reversed-grid race to cap off the year.
Photos: FIA Formula 2 Media.