Nailing his getaway from fourth on the grid, the Japanese driver showed his overtaking chops to snatch the lead early on. Through two Safety Car restarts, he managed to keep his rivals at bay in a close fight to the finish under the floodlights.
Victor Martins’ rapid pace showed no signs of dissipating. The ART Grand Prix driver blitzed his way through the field from 10th to eventually finish second. Jehan Daruvala vied with the pair for victory, but ultimately had to settle for third.
AS IT HAPPENED
Starting on the front row in only his third Formula 2 race, Jak Crawford managed to keep the highly experienced Ralph Boschung at bay off the line. However, it was Iwasa that got the best start, soaring up from fourth to second. The Red Bull junior went around the outside of the Campos Racing driver at Turn 1 to snatch the inside line and the place into Turn 2.
Crawford’s lead proved to be brief with Iwasa looming large in his mirrors. Utilising the slipstream down the main straight, the DAMS driver sailed into the lead. The action was halted moments later after Zane Maloney found himself facing the wrong way, bringing out the Safety Car at the start of Lap 2.
Iwasa held firm on the restart as Boschung found his way back through to second, dispatching Crawford through the first chicane. Oliver Bearman and Martins continued their climbs up the order, acing the restart to move inside the top six, having started eighth and 10th respectively.
It wasn’t long before the Safety Car made another appearance. After executing a late lunge on Maini for seventh into Turn 1, Théo Pourchaire attempted to repeat the move the following lap on his ART teammate. Diving too deep under braking, the Frenchman collided with Bearman ahead, forcing the pair into retirement.
Getting racing back underway, Iwasa opted to go early on the restart and caught Boschung napping, pulling himself out of the slipstream along the main straight.
Meanwhile, Crawford and Maini got their elbows out in the battle for fifth. Going into Turn 13, Maini made the move, but the Hitech Pulse-Eight racer nipped back past at the final corner. Duelling three-wide along the main straight, Maini finally got the job done, as Jack Doohan joined the fight.
Out front, it was all to play for as Daruvala and Martins dispatched Boschung on consecutive laps and set out to catch up with Iwasa. Less than a second separated the top three for the final five laps, as Daruvala pounced, going side-by-side with Iwasa into Turn 1. Taking a trip across the run-off, the MP Motorsport driver was left vulnerable to Martins behind, and the Alpine junior wasted no time in wrestling second place away from him.
With Martins right on his tail on the final lap, Iwasa was forced to go on the defensive all the way to the chequered flag to claim his third win in the Championship. Daruvala comfortably took third ahead of Campos duo Boschung and Maini.
PREMA Racing’s Frederik Vesti clawed his way up to sixth, having started ninth. Doohan secured seventh for Invicta Virtuosi Racing, whilst Dennis Hauger snatched the final points-paying position from pole-sitter Crawford on the final lap.
KEY QUOTE – Ayumu Iwasa, DAMS
“P1 in the Sprint Race, I’m very happy about this, but unfortunately, I didn’t have great speed. So, we still have a lot of things to do for tomorrow’s race and we work on them together as a team, and I’ll try do my best as much as I can.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
Securing his third top four finish in three races elevates Boschung to the lead of the Drivers’ Championship on 33 points, one point ahead of Pourchaire. Iwasa moves up to third on 19, while rookies Maini and Martins round out the top five.
Campos Racing’s consistency keeps them on top in the Teams’ Standings with 51. ART Grand Prix sit two points behind in second, whilst DAMS and MP Motorsport leapfrog Rodin Carlin into third and fourth.
After claiming his maiden pole position in Friday’s Qualifying session, Martins lines up alongside Bearman on all-rookie Feature Race front row. The race gets underway at 16:15 local time