Enzo Fittipaldi, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023

Fittipaldi grabs first F2 victory with penultimate lap pass on Verschoor

Formula 2

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Enzo Fittipaldi claimed his first victory in Formula 2 by winning the Belgian sprint race after taking the lead on the penultimate lap.

Richard Verschoor led for much of the race but a late charge from Fittipaldi, who started third, saw him overtake the Van Amersfoort driver down the Kemmel straight. Earlier leader Jehan Daruvala was forced to retire after his car’s headrest fell off.

It is Fittipaldi’s third podium of the season, and first since Spain. Theo Pourchaire took the final rostrum spot to reduce his championship deficit to Frederik Vesti.

The race started 35 minutes later than expected, after Formula 1’s sprint race qualifying was delayed due to rain. With conditions having dried since then, Daruvala was in pole position on a partially-reversed grid while Verschoor joined him on the front row.

There were then further complications when an extra formation lap was ordered, after newcomer Josh Mason failed to get off the line properly.

When the race finally got underway, Daruvala made an excellent start to keep first while Verschoor was immediately under pressure from behind. The Van Amersfoort driver held on, however, while the two championship protagonists quickly moved up the order.

By lap two, Pourchaire gained two positions to run fourth and Vesti was sixth after starting ninth.

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Yet the battle at the top suddenly changed the following lap. Daruvala was forced into the pit lane to retire with his headrest problem.

Moments later Amaury Cordeel, running out of the points, spun and became the race’s second retirement. The Safety Car appeared, with Verschoor now leading ahead of Fittipaldi and Pourchaire.

The race restarted on lap five and the top three kept position. To Pourchaire’s delight, Vesti had a poor restart and was overtaken by Dennis Hauger for fourth at Les Combes that lap.

Verschoor continued to extend his advantage over Fittipaldi and by lap eight, it was at 2.2 seconds. His progress was aided by the battle behind him as Fittipaldi defended from Pourchaire, who made his first overtaking attempt at Les Combes on the eighth tour.

Much of the entertainment came in the midfield, particularly from Ayumu Iwasa. The Red Bull junior started 16th and by lap nine he had charged up to ninth, while making a thrilling overtake on Oliver Bearman at Les Combes on his way.

Pourchaire soon dropped back and was 3.3 seconds behind Fittipaldi on lap 12, while the Red Bull junior had been unable to challenge Verschoor.

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More wheel-to-wheel racing came in the battle for fifth, as Victor Martins was trying to overtake Vesti in sector two and three on lap 12. The championship leader’s aggressive defending initially kept him ahead, but it allowed drivers behind to close and form a train down to ninth.

Martins did not give up though. His next attack came on lap 14 where it proved much easier, as the Alpine junior moved past Vesti on Kemmel Straight for fifth.

As that was happening, Fittipaldi had launched a late charge on Verschoor and was 0.7 seconds behind the race leader with three laps remaining.

Fittipaldi looked to make his first attempt at Les Combes on lap 15, but quickly backed out. He remained on Verschoor’s tail, and the following lap he took the race lead down Kemmel straight.

Verschoor was unable to fight back, and Fittipaldi crossed the line to win by 2.3 seconds. Hauger was best of the non-podium finishers, ahead of Martins, Jack Doohan and Vesti with Iwasa rounding up the point positions.

Pourchaire now trails championship leader Vesti by seven points, with Iwasa in third, 22 points behind the Mercedes junior. The win leaves Fittipaldi eighth in the standings and he is three points behind seventh-placed Verschoor.

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Ed Hardy
In 2019, Ed started working on Formula 1 writing articles during race weekends. Alongside that, he also built up experience in football working on...

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