Paul Ricard F2: George Russell slashes Lando Norris's points lead
|By Jack Benyon||Saturday, June 23rd 2018, 17:12 GMT|
Mercedes Formula 1 junior George Russell took his third victory of the Formula 2 season in a dramatic Paul Ricard race where reliability issues continued and rain shuffled the order.
Russell led from the start, where first and second in the championship, Lando Norris and Artem Markelov, both stalled with the F2 2018 car's notorious tricky clutch.
Third in the points, Alexander Albon, and Ralph Boschung both had repeats of their engine troubles in qualifying and retired from the race, with updates for the car at this round seemingly not enough to fix the issues.
Sergio Sette Camara joined Russell at the front early on, up from fourth, after missing the last round due to a hand injury sustained in qualifying at Monaco.
But he was the only driver in the same league as Russell, the two mastering rain at different parts of the circuit to pull away at the front.
Both were able to stop with the knowledge they would emerge ahead of traffic.
Sette Camara pitted first and then attacked. He brought Russell's lead, which had been as large as six seconds, down to just 1.6s.
When Russell's tyres were warm, he quickly pulled away but there was more drama to come.
With four laps to go Sette Camara hauled in Russell and dive-bombed at the chicane, cutting it completely.
He cut Russell's gap to 0.5s but Russell remained calm and sealed the win, and had Sette Camara taken the place he would have almost certainly been penalised for gaining an unfair advantage.
While the gap between the leaders just 1.1s, third was 33 further back but earned with an almost equally impressive performance.
Roberto Merhi scythed through the field in the wet, after he had started 14th on the grid. His dry pace was enough to hold on for a podium although it looked like Nyck de Vries could challenge him late on.
Prema driver de Vries struggled in the wet, but went long on his tyres and pitted with six laps to go from third. But he couldn't get any higher than sixth despite his fresh tyres.
Instead, Luca Ghiotto steered his Campos entry to fourth despite spinning twice on the entry to the Mistral straight in the wet early on.
Behind him, Antonio Fuoco recovered from a stop/go, after a crew member entered the track to restart his stalled car ahead of the formation lap, to take fifth. He was rapid in the mixed conditions, driving back into the top 10 on more than one occasion after his two stops.
Behind de Vries, Fuoco's Charouz Racing System team-mate Louis Deletraz recovered from some wayward moments to take seventh, while eighth was decided on the last lap.
Russian Time Honda junior Tadasuke Makino had easily his most impressive display of the season, into the top seven in the wet before he faded and then re-emerged late with fresh tyres.
He attacked Nicholas Latifi for eighth and the reversed-grid pole for Sunday, and took it on the last lap, before DAMS' Latifi retook the spot at the circuit's fastest corner Signes to seal the spot.
Nirei Fukuzumi, Makino's fellow Honda junior, rounded out the top 10.
Markelov could only recover 15th and is down to third in the points behind the resurgent Russell - who is now just seven adrift of leader Norris, the last classified finisher.
Race one result
|1||George Russell||ART Grand Prix||30||58m28.750s|
|2||Sergio Sette Camara||Carlin||30||1.108s|
|3||Luca Ghiotto||Campos Vexatec Racing||30||37.879s|
|4||Antonio Fuoco||Charouz Racing System||30||43.655s|
|5||Nyck de Vries||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||30||45.680s|
|6||Louis Deletraz||Charouz Racing System||30||53.226s|
|8||Tadasuke Makino||RUSSIAN TIME||30||1m17.343s|
|9||Nirei Fukuzumi||BWT Arden||30||1m20.384s|
|11||Jack Aitken||ART Grand Prix||30||1m32.469s|
|12||Maximilian Gunther||BWT Arden||30||1m37.662s|
|13||Santino Ferrucci||Trident||29||1 Lap|
|14||Artem Markelov||RUSSIAN TIME||29||1 Lap|
|15||Roy Nissany||Campos Vexatec Racing||29||1 Lap|
|16||Lando Norris||Carlin||29||1 Lap|
|-||Roberto Merhi||MP Motorsport||30||Disqualified|
|-||Ralph Boschung||MP Motorsport||12||Retirement|
|-||Sean Gelael||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||7||Retirement|