George Russell, ART, Sochi, F2, 2018

Russell on brink of F2 title after sixth win as Norris’s hopes end

Formula Two

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George Russell has extended his lead in the F2 championship with a sprint race win in Sochi, while Alexander Albon held on to take the title fight to Abu Dhabi.

However a second retirement in as many races for Lando Norris ended his hopes of claiming the F2 crown.

Nirei Fukuzumi took the lead at the start, fighting with Antonio Fuoco into turn one as both ran wide without space to turn in. Lorandi and Latifi were behind them at the start but collided out at turn two, spinning out into the runoff and prompting a Safety Car while the cars were retrieved.

Fukuzumi maintained the lead at the restart, instantly pulling out a half-second on championship leader Russell behind him. By lap four, it was clear Russell was able to use more of the track than Fukuzumi, unable to pull ahead as DRS was enabled and the Mercedes junior made a clean pass for the lead, flying past on the straight.

Norris’s engineer told him there was a ‘possible chance of rain’ on lap six. However the championship outside was also under investigation for being out of position behind the Safety Car.

By lap seven, Sette Camara was able to make the move on Fukuzumi for second – with Russell several seconds ahead and Artem Markelov, whose home race yesterday was wrecked by radio malfunctions, steaming up behind the front-runners, six places up from his eleventh grid position.

Norris received a 10-second stop-go for his move under the safety car, effectively removing him from points contention this race although he had been well down the field beforehand.

Rain arrived the following lap, as Niko Kari retired from the race with debris on track from contact with Maxi Gunther, the front wing flying out from under his car as he hit the barriers.

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With no intermediate tyre in F2 and no pit stops mandatory during the sprint race, the Astroturfed elements of the track rapidly became treacherous. They caught out Arden driver Jack Aitken, spinning him in the middle of the track and bringing out a Virtual Safety Car on lap 13.

Norris took advantage of the suspended racing to pit for wets, as his only possible chance of a return – with other drivers sliding, Russell, Sette Camara, Albon, Markelov and De Vries all pitted from the points the following lap but without safety car security. Fuoco and Deletraz inherited the lead but no driver seemed able to stay on the track with slicks, standing water spraying out of kerbs.

Start, Sochi, F2, 2018
Fukuzumi led at the start
Drivers on the full wet tyre were doing little better, however, with not quite enough water on the racing line to suit it, forcing them into run offs to manage the ridged tyres. Russell still recovered to third before picking off struggling Deletraz with superior grip and re-taking the race lead from Fuoco on lap sixteen.

Norris’ terrible weekend continued, with a retirement on lap seventeen while Albon ran in third, set to extend his points lead on the 2019 McLaren Formula 1 driver and any hope of Norris taking the title from Russell slid as surely off the tracks as his car.

Russell kept control of the race, with drivers remaining on wet tyres to the end and only a last-lap pass by De Vries on Markelov changing the order. Russell took the win, with Sette Camara in second and Albon in third, De Vries claiming fourth and Markelov fifth. The remaining points went to former F1 driver Roberto Merhi (returning again to F2 at Campos now) and Fukuzumi and Boccolacci in seventh and eighth.

Russell increases his points lead to 251, with Albon second place in the championship on 211, Norris tails them with nothing added to his 197 this weekend, De Vries catching him from fourth with 184. With 51 points still available, no one but Albon can challenge Russell for the title in Abu Dhabi.

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    Hazel Southwell
    Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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  • 5 comments on “Russell on brink of F2 title after sixth win as Norris’s hopes end”

    1. Vettel fan 17 (@)
      30th September 2018, 10:33

      Great race, hopefully the rain stays around somewhat for F1

    2. What a shame Russel doesn’t have a f1 seat for next year.
      I can’t help feeling that Norris is going to struggle at McLaren, is a very consistent driver, much like Sains but in f1 that’s not enough.

    3. This weekend has again backed up my view that Norris needed another season in F2. Very high risk of flopping in F1 I’d say. To be honest I can’t see any way into the sport for Russell in the near future, which is a great shame. Williams the only option but they’ll probably be going with Markelov or Kubica. Both good drivers but it’s a shame when the probable F2 champion looks like being sat on the sidelines.

      1. Yep @tflb, I feel much the same; I hope Norris proves us wrong, but there should be no shame in just taking a bit more time in F2, especially if there are a lot of other contenders for that F1 seat anyway.

        1. He’s still very young, so one more season in f2 would be good for him, but next year with Schumacher, that crazy guy ticktum and even some of the current drivers in f2 field he could struggle again for the title and that could hurt his career, for him stepping up now is his best option, but in the long run it may not be his best career option, only time and his performances will tell

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