Paul Ricard F2: Russell triumphs in wet-dry thriller
Mercedes Formula 1 junior George Russell took a lights-to-flag win in a thrilling wet-dry F2 feature race at Paul Ricard, holding off a late-race charge from Sergio Sette Camara.
Light rain started falling before the start of the race, resulting in a hectic opening phase with several drivers spinning out in the slippery conditions.
Three drivers, pole-sitter Russell, Sette Camara and Alex Albon, quickly pulled away from the rest of the field, their lead rapidly growing as big as 15 seconds.
After a brief virtual safety car period caused by Sean Gelael spinning and stopping on track, Albon was the first driver of the trio to change tyres.
While he rejoined seventh, his chances of victory were soon over as his car slowed with mechanical issues.
Of the top two, Sette Camara was the first to pit while being three seconds behind, but Russell reacted and followed suit a lap later, rejoining in the lead.
However Russell was unable to keep a safe gap over Sette Camara late on.
The Brazilian's charge was seemingly over when he cut the Mistral chicane, for which he was later investigated, but not ultimately penalised.
He was all over Russell for the final two laps, but Sette Camara, after a desperate and unsuccessful lunge at the last corner of the race, settled for second, 1.1s behind.
Fourth place, which later turned into third thanks to Albon's failure, was hotly contested in the early stages.
Louis Deletraz held the position after the start but Jack Aitken moved past him on Lap 3, only for the Renault junior to lose pace later on.
He gave the position back to Deletraz, but when the Swiss narrowly managed to avoid spinning at Turn 7, Roberto Merhi edged ahead.
The Spaniard held on to the position when all the pitstops panned out and ended up taking the final podium spot from 14th on the grid and 31.9s behind Russell.
Luca Ghiotto had two early spins on the Mistral straight but still finished fourth ahead of Antonio Fuoco and Nyck de Vries, who was the last driver to pit.
Fuoco recovered from a stop/go penalty for having a team member on grid as the formation lap was starting in order to restart the stalled Charouz car.
Deletraz ended up seventh followed by Nicholas Latifi, who spun on the opening lap and had a couple of other off-track moments before winning a thrilling last-lap duel against Tadasuke Makino for reverse-grid pole for Sunday's race. Arden's Nirei Fukuzumi completed the top 10.
Aitken, along with Roy Nissany, Maximilian Gunther and Lando Norris gambled on wets in the early stages but eventually had to revert to slicks and only finish 12th.
Points leader Norris endured a disastrous race as the Briton stalled from third on the grid, and was completely out of contention after his wet-tyre gamble, taking 17th.
Artem Markelov also stalled on the grid, while Ralph Boschung's MP car stopped on the main straight due to an engine failure, prompting a second brief VSC period in the race.
|1||George Russell||ART Grand Prix||-|
|2||Sergio Sette Camara||Carlin||1.1|
|3||Roberto Merhi||MP Motorsport||33.0|
|4||Luca Ghiotto||Campos Racing||37.8|
|5||Antonio Fuoco||Charouz Racing System||43.6|
|6||Nyck de Vries||Prema Powerteam||45.6|
|7||Louis Deletraz||Charouz Racing System||53.2|
|9||Tadasuke Makino||RUSSIAN TIME||77.3|
|10||Nirei Fukuzumi||Arden International||80.3|
|12||Jack Aitken||ART Grand Prix||92.4|
|13||Maximilian Gunther||Arden International||97.6|
|14||Santino Ferrucci||Trident||1 lap|
|15||Artem Markelov||RUSSIAN TIME||1 lap|
|16||Roy Nissany||Campos Racing||1 lap|
|17||Lando Norris||Carlin||1 lap|
|18||Alexander Albon||DAMS||12 laps|
|19||Ralph Boschung||MP Motorsport||18 laps|
|20||Sean Gelael||Prema Powerteam||23 laps|
Paul Ricard F2: Mercedes junior Russell scores maiden pole
Merhi loses Paul Ricard F2 podium finish