Start, Formula Two, Hungaroring, 2018

Tactically brilliant Albon manages sprint race to win

Formula Two

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Fourth-place starting Alexander Albon has beaten Artem Markelov at his own game, holding his nerve – and tyres- to a sprint race win in Hungary.

The first weekend of F2’s new clutch, hoped to have fixed the stalling issues seen in the first third of the season, has seen a 100% success rate with all cars getting off the grid in both races – albeit with lower grip.

Reverse pole sitter Markelov slipped back to fourth from pole with a poor getaway under a lot of wheel spin, immediately giving the lead to Ghiotto.

Roy Nissany, Alessio Lorandi and Ralph Boschung went three-wide and colliding into turn one – both Boschung and Lorandi left the track and were ultimately out of the race, with Boschung’s stranded car causing a Virtual Safety Car.

The race was neutralised for less than two laps and the restart saw more incidents, with Sergio Sette Camara – who lost third place yesterday over a 10-second penalty for colliding with Antonio Fuoco – once again colliding with the Italian. Fuoco’s car went briefly airborne but escaped with nothing worse than a foxed front wing he drove back to the pits.

Sette Camara’s haste on the restart was to try to take the final podium position off Markelov. The fight was almost immediately joined by Lando Norris and feature race winner Nyck de Vries and by lap 11, five drivers were contesting third place as former Manor F1 driver Roberto Merhi brought his MP Motorsport car into the mix, having moved up from eleventh to eighth.

With such a tight battle behind them, Ghiotto and Albon were free to make decent headway from the pack – although Ghiotto seemed not to be able to make his own lead on the Thai driver. Degradation is known to be high in the dry here and with 28 laps on just one set of tyres for the sprint race, tyre management was to prove the deciding factor in several battles.

Most unusually, Markelov’s; known for being unusually good at managing tyres, he started to slip back through the order after being passed by Sette Camara, then an attempt by De Vries letting Norris pass them both.

De Vries and Norris had battled fiercely behind him and continued to but with Norris’ tyres in better shape and Merhi adding pressure from behind, yesterday’s race winner also ended up slipping backwards.

Ghiotto’s tyres began to severely give out, Albon taking advantage with a daring pass on lap 25 that saw him look certain to have secured the win.

George Russell had started the race dead last, following a mechanical failure during the feature race and frustrated to be so far from the points while rival Norris moved up the order – he described drivers around him as “out for a Sunday drive.”

Russell’s luck turned, however, as running with slower drivers meant he had saved tyres and by the last few laps was contending the points – against his own teammate Jack Aitken. The two ARTs followed each other for several laps, Russell desperate to pass Aitken and eventually making it on turn 13 of the penultimate lap – a massive recovery from twentieth to eighth.

Albon took the chequered flag, with Ghiotto hanging on to second and a frustrated Sette Camara constrained to third. Following behind them, Norris held off Merhi for fourth and Nirei Fukuzumi took a dramatic sixth place from De Vries with a drag-race finish.

With Russell rounding out the points for the sprint race, Louis Deletraz and Aitken were left with nothing for rounding out the top ten. Markelov finished in thirteenth, passed by all but three un-lapped cars.

On the podium, Albon confirmed tyre management was key to his win, biding his time until Ghiotto made an error, saying “Midway through the race I was thinking degradation was really bad – but the more laps we went on, I realised Luca was really struggling and the tyres were coming to me.”

George Russell still leads the F2 standings, with 171 points. Lando Norris has closed what was a 37-point lead to only 12 on 159 and Alexander Albon has cemented his third place on 141, keeping him easily in the title fight for the next four rounds.

F2 returns after the summer break in Spa-Francorchamps.

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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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8 comments on “Tactically brilliant Albon manages sprint race to win”

  1. Peter Richardson
    29th July 2018, 11:57

    Awesome, thank you.
    In the absence of any way for me to watch I feel a sense of involvement reading your articles.

    1. Thank you – I try to write assuming the reader hasn’t seen the race and I’m glad it’s informative.

  2. Until I find a regular way to watch F2 in Germany (still hoping F1tv will at some time pick up live races), I do have to say that these recaps do a very good job of making me feel I watched it @hazelsouthwell, thanks!

    And F2 this year is pretty good, both Norris and Russel a step above the others, but Albon, de Vries (I think these two have been a bit unlucky) and, to some extent, Mareklov, Fuoco, and some 5-6 others all have shown great racing at times.

    1. I think Norris and De Vries have both been on tremendous form this weekend; I hope the fix to the clutch means we get to see more battles between them (Prema have been uncharacteristically unreliable this year and Carlin have had a couple of mishaps) as the laps they were chasing behind Markelov were really fierce stuff.

      Albon has been outstanding, especially when you consider he didn’t even have a secured ride at the start of this season. Which seems ludicrous when you consider where his teammate Latifi is now, 107 points back from him in the standings.

      1. Hoping for Albon and Russel to F1 in 2019!

    2. Russel and Norris are in another level, but Camara have an edge over Albon as best of the rest. Albon is very inconsistent in race days. If Camara didn’t have his run of misfortunes he would be easily a title contender. Camara is the most consistent driver on F2 grid.

      Baku. Disqualified from a 2th place due to a team mistake.

      Barcelona. He had a car problem in qualyfing and started just 14th (still he climbed to 7th). And abandoned the sprint race with another car problem.

      Monaco. Missed both races (where he qualified 4th).

      Spielberg. At the sunday race he dropped from 3th to 10th after a pit stop team error.

      Silverstone. Another car problem (a blown engine this time) on saturday (when he was going for the 3th place) what also ruined his sunday race.

      If we consider a problem free scenario, (4th place average at both Monaco and Barcelona races, 3th place at Silverstone’s saturday and 6th at sunday, 3th place at Spielberg feature race) Camara would be championship leader with 192pts.

      And that rain really didn’t helped him much last weekend.

      I’m not saying here that he’s the better driver or that other drivers didn’t have problems out of their control, but Camara was the one who suffered more from misfortunes.

  3. I do feel a a bit for George Russell, this season the standings are looking closer due to some ill timed reliability issues with his Art at several races.

    Was irritated yesterday with Sky who joined the F2 race 3-4 laps in while finishing the amusing diversion that is the Sky F1 Show.

    1. That was shocking yesterday; especially since they’ll no doubt repeat that 300 times during the summer break.

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