Felipe Drugovich has gone lights-to-flag in Formula 2’s opening sprint race for 2020 which was headlined by several safety car periods as numerous drivers, including Marcus Armstrong, suffered power unit failures across the 28-lap affair.
The Kiwi was vividly disappointed as a second successive podium was well in his grasp before the unforeseen retirement which put a sour end on such a promising weekend.
The race started strongly for Armstrong as he jumped from seventh to third on the opening tour while pole-sitter Drugovich maintained the lead before the safety car was deployed as Giuliana Alesi was seen with flames licking the engine cover of his BWT HWA Racelab machine.
There was further drama as Sean Geleal grounded to a halt under the safety car in yet another mechanical issue in the opening weekend for the feeder series.
Off the restart Drugovich led Louis Deletraz and Armstrong, the Brazilian racer powering away from the challenging pack to pull out a one-second advantage.
A half-hearted lunge by Armstrong on Deletraz at Turn 3 off the restart warned the Charouz Racing driver of his lurking presence and as the Kiwi began to pile on the pressure to force his rival into a mistake.
But almost immediately after the first restart the race’s second safety car was required when Luca Ghiotto was punted from behind by Jehan Daruvala in an impetuous lunge at Turn 4. The incident unfortunately forced Guanyu Zhou off the road and dropped yesterday’s pole-sitter to the back of the field.
An ex-New Zealand Grand Prix winner, Daruvala’s race went from bad to worse he when clashed with Artem Markelov off the second restart resulting in the front wing of the Russian’s car finding a new home on the exit of Turn 1.
Upfront and Drugovich set a new fastest lap to extend his margin but tragedy struck for Armstrong on lap 14 when his ART shutoff as he approached Turn 1.
Frantic attempts to re-fire the car on the run up the hill were to no avail and Armstrong, rather naughtily, came to a stop in the middle of the track and requiring yet another safety car to be deployed.
It was a bitter end to such a promising weekend for Armstrong with a double podium on offer as well as the title lead. However, his debut F2 performance bods well for next week when the series makes a return to the Red Bull Ring for round two of the championship.
Drugovich, now a master of safety car restarts, retained his lead at the green flag ahead of Deletraz and a recently promoted Dan Ticktum,
Despite the Austrian venue boasting three DRS straights and several overtaking opportunities, most of the top-five had difficulty reeling in those ahead of them as they battled turbulent wake though the final two sectors with no one able to launch a challenge to the race leader.
Drugovich’s final margin at the line was 2.469s over Deletraz as the rookie became the second successive Brazilian racer to triumph the sprint race around the Red Bull Ring after Sergio Sette Camara’s victory last year.
Williams junior Dan Ticktum would hang on to claim third and his maiden F2 podium in only his fourth start.
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