Luca Ghiotto has executed an audacious strategy to claim victory in a thrilling Formula 2 sprint race which had a hard-charging Callum Ilott hunt down a 30-second deficit in ten laps to come up four-tenths shy of the win.
Despite no mandatory pitstop, the indecently fast tyre wear of the Hungaroring compelled every driver to make a pitstop for soft tyres in the back stages of the race – all but Ghiotto who gambled on running to the flag on his worn tyres, managing to clinch an unexpected victory in a traditional F2 barnburner.
“It was the most stressful race of my career,” said Ghiotto. “Being the only car not to stop was a bit of a bet, but finally a good weekend for us with the win today. I am super happy”
Kiwi racer Marcus Armstrong fared significantly better in today’s sprint race, climbing 10 positions to finish just short of the points in ninth having been forced to start 19th after a costly DNF in yesterday’s feature event.
Pole-sitter Ilott maintained his lead after the opening lap as a flying Ghiotto charged from fifth on the grid to second in the opening tour.
Armstrong was another man on a mission as the Kiwi looked to make amends for his crash in yesterday’s feature race. Having started on the ninth row of the gird, Armstrong was up to 13th by lap three just as Dan Ticktum retired from the race with a suspected mechanical issue.
The British driver vented his frustration over the radio as a possible podium slipped from his grasp in a matter of moments.
Mick Schumacher’s Prema took a few laps before beginning to show signs of promise but the German quickly made way of yesterday’s podium hero Nikita Mazepin on Lap 6 for fourth before clearing Louis Deletraz for third three laps later.
Armstrong continued his charge and with 15 laps in hand had wrestled himself inside the Top 10.
However, the outrageously fast tyre degradation of the Hungaroring, coupled by the lack of dry weather running over the weekend forced numerous drivers to make an unscheduled pitstop and don a fresh set of soft tyres for a blast to the chequered flag.
Schumacher was one of the first drivers in the leading pack to cycle through pitlane as a flurry of action saw race leader Ilott and the sister Prema of Robert Shwartzman respond the following lap.
Armstrong was whistled into the pitlane by his ART team and the Kiwi managed to retain his tenth-place position once he re-joined, four seconds adrift of Sean Gelael.
But crucially, series veteran Luca Ghiotto opted to stay out and nurture his wounded tyres to the line with a 30-second margin to play with as Ilott began hunting down his prey, taking out five-seconds a lap on some occasions as the laps counter ticked down.
An ailing Galael offered little fight as Armstrong picked up another position to elevate hoist himself into ninth before sailing past Giuliano Alesi a lap later. But the young New Zealander would then unfortunately relinquish eighth to Guanyu Zhou in a heated battle, relegating himself back to ninth and outside the points.
Ghiotto had had his lead slashed to within three-seconds at the start of the 28th and final lap before a lock-up into Turn 1 allowed Ilott to latch onto his rear wing.
Resilient driving in the last portion of the lap kept Ilott at bay, with Ghiotto hanging on by the barest of margins to claim a stellar sixth career F2 race win.
Armstrong’s double non-point scoring finishes has left a sizable dent in his championship challenge and after two strong outings in Austria, the Kiwi will undoubtedly be working hard to improve on his performance ahead of the next round in Silverstone.
|20||Marino Sato||+ 83.059s|
|21||Guilherme Samaia||+ 1 lap|