Sensational Sixth Win for Russell in Sochi F2 Sprint Race
George Russell took his sixth FIA Formula 2 victory of the season at Sochi, after mastering the conditions in a dry-wet Sprint Race thriller to give himself a 37-point lead at the top of the Championship Standings.
After finishing 4th in yesterdays Feature Race, ART Grand Prix driver George Russell started the 21-lap Sprint Race from 5th on the grid.
Russell made a great getaway to vault himself into 4th position as the pack negotiated Turn 2-4.
He was then able to avoid a collision in-front between the Trident of Alessio Lorandi and the DAMS of Nicholas Latifi.
The resulting crash brought out the Safety Car, with the BRDC Superstar now up to 2nd position behind Nirei Fukuzumi's BWT Arden.
On the restart, Russell piled on the pressure for the race lead, which he was able to seize on Lap 5 with a pass at Turn 2 to move himself to the head of the field.
Russell was able to pull an immediate gap on his rivals behind to comfortably take himself out of DRS threat, where by Lap 7 he was over two seconds ahead of now nearest rival Sergio Sette Camara. The Briton set the fastest lap in the race, banking himself another crucial 2-points in championship campaign.
However, it was far from straight-forward after this for the championship leader, as the heavens began to open on Lap 9. The conditions became treacherous, eliminating the MP Motorsport of Niko Kari and Russell's teammate Jack Aitken in consecutive laps. This triggered a Virtual Safety Car period, which caused issues for the slick-shod runners, as they had to run slowly during the VSC period, with the rain falling and causing them to lose tyre temperature.
Russell made the decision to pit for 'Wet' tyres on Lap 10, where a slick stop by his ART Grand Prix saw him re-emerge at the head of the pack once again.
The Charouz Racing pair of Antonio Fuoco and Louis Deletraz gambled on the rain-shower passing quickly and remained on their 'Soft' compound, Dry Pirelli Tyres. Despite their gamble, Russell managed to pass Deletraz and Fuoco in quick succession - retaking the lead of the race and began to pull out a comfortable advantage on Sette Camara behind to almost eight seconds.
Russell controlled the race in the remaining laps as the track dried out, crossing the line to take his sixth victory of the season by 7.4s from Sette Camara and main championship rival Alexander Albon who finished in 3rd position.
George Russell " The conditions were extremely difficult to be honest. It always seems that the races I’ve been in the lead of this year, there’s always seems to be something going on – in Barcelona, it was spitting, and in Paul Ricard it was the same again. It’s not been easy! It’s incredibly difficult when the rain starts coming down, it’s very tricky, because if the rain stopped and the sun came out, it would have been better to keep it on the track and stay on the slicks.
It’s such a difficult decision, and also when the VSC came out I didn’t know if I could pit or not, I was extremely fortunate that nobody behind me did because they could have gained a huge amount of laptime. Nevertheless, extremely pleased to get the win today, really proud of my team after a difficult day yesterday, and we worked late last night to try and understand our issues and how to improve it. We really did that, and the pace in the dry was incredible."
After his victory in the Sprint Race, Russell leads the standings on 248 points - 37 ahead of Albon, where the title race is now between these two drivers heading into the FIA Formula 2 Season Finale at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi on the 23-25 November.
Photos: FIA Formula 2 Media