Vesti grabs maiden F2 win after safety car chaos: ‘It just worked out’

The combination of Formula 2 and the Baku City Circuit always delivers exciting racing, and this was once again the case on Saturday as Frederik Vesti stole victory from Prema’s Jehan Daruvala in a hectic second half of the Sprint Race. Following the podium celebration, F1 Feeder Series and selected media spoke to the top three about the chaos that unfolded.

By Tyler Foster

On reverse-grid pole after qualifying tenth, Jake Hughes had a golden opportunity to grab his maiden F2 win, but he struggled for pace and fell through the pack early on. Instead, it was Mercedes junior Vesti who won the race.

It looked for much of the race as though Daruvala would clinch his first win of the season, and he certainly looked in control during the first half of the race. However, Daruvala’s teammate Dennis Hauger crashed on Lap 14 to bring out the first of three safety cars, setting up a frenetic finish.

Vesti steals victory

When the first safety car period ended, Daruvala had the responsibility to dictate the race restart. On both of the first two restarts, the Indian driver left it until the last moment to take off into the distance. However, he locked up into Turn 1 on the second restart, giving Vesti the chance to overtake and win the race.

After the race, F1 Feeder Series asked Vesti how difficult it was to know when to push Daruvala at the restarts.

“The first thing is to do the best possible [restart] to try to overtake Jehan. There’s not so much I can do other than being completely ready and try to predict when Jehan was going to go. I’ve watched a lot of videos from last year, and it’s always pretty much in a similar place that everyone is going, same as me today, because the straight is so long that you just want to go quite late. So I had an idea where to go, and it just worked out.”

Daruvala left frustrated

After Vesti took the lead, the safety car came out for the third time, leaving one lap of green-flag racing at the end. It was now Daruvala’s turn to become the hunter as he attempted to regain the lead, but a big accident back in the pack at Turn 1 brought out the yellow flags in the first and third sectors.

We asked Daruvala if he felt he would have had a chance to pass Vesti for the win had the race finished under green flags.

“To be honest I’m not really sure. I think I came out within half a second of him out of the last corner, so it would have been quite close. I think he obviously saw that me and Liam [Lawson] were battling, so he took it really easy around the castle and Turn 13 and 15, where I was pushing a lot to pull away from Liam because I was afraid Liam would do the same to me coming down the straight, so I was pushing to get away.

“Then I was a lot closer than I thought I would be coming onto the straight, but as soon as I saw the yellows, we just both lifted and came to the line. Obviously I don’t really know, it’s hard to say, but I think the gap was around half a second before I lifted off, so with the tow it would have been close.”

Lawson ready for Sunday

Lawson hasn’t had a great season for a driver of his calibre, but he showed once again just how quick he can be by qualifying second on Friday. Starting ninth for the Sprint Race, Lawson took full advantage of the safety cars to scythe from seventh to third in the final laps.

Baku is known as the City of Winds, so we asked the New Zealander how much wind has been a factor this weekend.

“Regarding the wind, we get updated at the start of the race what direction it’s going to be, and throughout the race if there’s any wind changes, we get updated as well. Yesterday there was a bit of crosswind in places, and then today to be honest I didn’t notice too much. It wasn’t really bad.”

Lawson’s performance will boost his confidence for Sunday’s Feature Race, which he is well placed to win.

“Tomorrow we are in a good position. Obviously P2 on the grid is nice. I didn’t have the best of starts today, but again I know what I need to do to fix that tomorrow, and with the pace we had today I think it’s definitely possible to go for the win.”

Header photo credit: Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool

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