Formula 2 made its welcome debut at Imola and with it came a wet qualifying, before two action-packed races. We had a maiden F2 pole sitter, a Fittipaldi on the podium and a Prema double podium. To recap the weekend’s action, here are our five main takeaways from F2 Round 3 at Imola.
By Tyler Foster
Vips starts fast but falls quicker
Estonian Red Bull Junior Jüri Vips started this season with the F2 Drivers’ Title being the target. After a disappointing Feature Race in Bahrain, where a slow pit-stop cost him victory, The Hitech GP driver came into Round 3 at Imola with two podiums to his name while also finishing in the points in all four races so far.
His weekend in Italy started perfectly after an impressive qualifying that saw Vips achieve his first career F2 pole position. However, in the Sprint Race he suffered problems on the first lap that led to him falling down to the back of the pack. He was unable to progress through the field and back into the points, finishing fifteenth.
While it is considered that Vips is usually on the receiving end of bad luck, it was unfortunately driver error that saw the Estonian crash out of the Feature Race from fourth after getting a slow start off the grid. He dipped his wheels into the gravel coming out of the Villeneuve chicane and crashed off. Considering that the driver behind him at that point, Théo Pourchaire, ended up winning the race, it is the second time that Vips has missed out on a Feature Race win this season. He is now eighth in the standings, 22 points off the lead.
Armstrong dominates Sprint Race
Another driver who believes that the championship is theirs to be won is Vips’ teammate, Marcus Armstrong. The Kiwi changed from DAMS to Hitech for this year. Both Hitech’s showed strong pace throughout the weekend and as a result of being ninth in qualifying, Armstrong started on the front row alongside Logan Sargeant for the Sprint Race.
Getting the better start, Armstrong flew into the lead and held it into turn one. While a VSC resulted in the gap between Armstrong and Prema’s Jehan Daruvala being closed, the Kiwi kept his tyres in good enough condition to stay in front and come home to win. It was a confident drive from Armstrong, making him the fifth driver to win a race this season.
Prema score their first double podium
The reigning Teams’ Champions, Prema, have struggled to find consistency amidst mistakes so far this season, but after two difficult rounds to open the championship, the Italian outfit seemed to have finally found their feet with a double podium in the Sprint Race.
The Prema duo of Daruvala and Dennis Hauger started third and sixth respectively for the Sprint Race. Both got an excellent start off the line and jumped up into second and third going into turn one. With no further overtaking for the Prema pair, they held their positions to come home with a 2-3, giving Hauger his first F2 podium of his career and Daruvala his third of the season.
Nissany throws away a golden opportunity
DAMS Israeli driver Roy Nissany is currently in his fourth season in Formula 2 and in that time has managed just one podium. Nevertheless, Nissany and DAMS have started this season rejuvenated. Nissany has nearly already matched his points total from last year in just three rounds so far in 2022.
After a strong start from fifth on the grid, Nissany scored a solid fourth-place finish in the Sprint Race on Saturday. For the Feature Race, the Israeli lined up in P6, but after rocketing off the line he entered turn one in the lead. This was an opportunity for Nissany to win his first race since 2017 and get his maiden F2 victory.
He led the field and looked comfortable at the front. Despite two Safety Cars, Nissany stayed out and looked to extend his tyres and his lead before he came in and pitted, however with just fifteen laps left to go, disaster struck. Exiting the final corner, Rivazza, Nissany dipped two wheels onto the gravel and lost control of his car before swerving into the wall and damaging both his suspension and his chances at victory.
While Nissany wasn’t the only driver to have made a mistake in the Feature Race, perhaps his was the costliest as it may be the only opportunity that the Israeli gets to finally break his victory duck.
Pourchaire steals Feature Race win
18-year-old Frenchman Théo Pourchaire won the opening Feature Race of the season in Bahrain after a clean performance that saw him take advantage of numerous other drivers’ mistakes. Once again, Pourchaire made his way forward and took the opportunity that arose from others’ mistakes.
Starting seventh on the grid for the Feature Race, the Frenchman made up a couple of places on the opening lap. Another position was secured when Vips crashed out and Pourchaire was up to fourth after just six laps. Pitting on lap eight under the Safety Car, Pourchaire managed to jump Ayumu Iwasa who had a slow stop.
The ART GP was now in the podium places behind Ralph Boschung. He made an impressive overtake on the Swiss driver, one that the cameras missed at the time, that put him in second. With fifteen laps to go Nissany had his crash, which gave Pourchaire the lead of the drivers that had pitted. With none of the alternate strategy runners finding any success, it was Pourchaire who came home to win his second Feature Race of the season and take the lead of the Championship by two points over MP Motorsport’s Felipe Drugovich.
Header photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool
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