Oliver Bearman demonstrated that to finish first in Baku – first you have to finish, as the British rookie claimed his first Formula 2 victory in a dramatic Sprint Race.
Off the back of his maiden pole position, he lined up 9th on the grid and carved his way through the field to snatch the win from PREMA Racing teammate Frederik Vesti.
A late restart with only three laps to go brought drama, as race leader Dennis Hauger and second-placed Victor Martins crashed out. The PREMA pair were there to pick up the pieces as the race concluded behind the third and final Safety Car. Hitech Pulse-Eight’s Jak Crawford also kept himself out of trouble to take his second podium in third.
AS IT HAPPENED
As the five lights went out, Victor Martins attempted to split the front row starters Richard Verschoor and Zane Maloney. However, there was no room for the ART Grand Prix driver as he banged wheels with Maloney.
Reverse pole-sitter Verschoor didn’t hold the lead for long. Contact with the wall at Turn 1 left the Van Amersfoort Racing driver with damage and forced his early retirement. Maloney momentarily assumed the front of the field, but the contact with Martins had caused a right rear puncture. Hauger capitalised to seize the lead from sixth on the grid.
After making his way up into the points, Ralph Boschung’s race came to an end on Lap 3, clipping the inside wall at Turn 11. His retirement triggered an early Safety Car appearance.
Given the power of the tow along the main straight, Dennis Hauger left it as late as possible to get the racing back underway on Lap 6. Further back, Frederik Vesti fought Jehan Daruvala for third as teammate Oliver Bearman took places from Théo Pourchaire and Crawford on consecutive laps.
On Lap 10, Vesti finally got the job done, slicing his way past Daruvala. With the advantage of DRS along the main straight, there was nothing he could do as Bearman breezed up into fourth on the following lap.
Locking up his front left tyre on the approach to Turn 15, Roy Nissany found the wall on the exit, bringing out the Safety Car once again.
It was all or nothing for the final three laps of racing as everyone struggled for grip on their medium tyres. Both Hauger and Martins hit the barriers at the Turn 1, leaving both out with the #6 ART in the TechPro. Daruvala was left with nowhere to go and collided with the underneath of Martins’ car.
Just behind them, Pourchaire and Arthur Leclerc both ran wide too into the run-off, whilst Invicta Virtuosi Racing’s Jack Doohan locked up into the apex and spun out of the race.
Vesti was promoted to the lead, but Bearman wasted no time putting him under pressure. As the Mercedes junior ran wide at Turn 4, Bearman slipped through to seize the lead moments before the third and final Safety Car was deployed.
With the race concluding behind the Safety Car, PREMA were able to hold on to their first 1-2 finish of the season, ahead of Crawford in third.
Those who started further back were the big beneficiaries, as Kush Maini added more points to his tally in fourth, having lined up in P14. Enzo Fittipaldi secured fifth ahead of Juan Manuel Correa. Trident’s Clément Novalak brought home his first points of the season in seventh, ahead of Isack Hadjar in the final points-paying position.
Oliver Bearman, PREMA Racing
“First win in F2 and also my first podium! I’m really happy to take this result starting from P9. It was a mega race and going off pole tomorrow, we can be hopeful.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
As four of the top five in the Standings failed to score, Iwasa continues to hold on to the top of the Drivers’ Championship on 58 points. However, Vesti’s podium has promoted him up into second on countback, as he’s tied with Pourchaire on 50 points. Ralph Boschung and Arthur Leclerc remain fourth and fifth, respectively, tied on 33 points apiece.
DAMS retain their spot at the top of the Teams’ table on 91 points, as their nearest rivals ART Grand Prix were also unable to add to their tally. PREMA Racing’s double podium has promoted them to third and allowed them to close to within one point of DAMS, with the Italian squad now on 66.
Oliver Bearman now has the chance to go two-for-two as he lines up pole for the Baku Feature Race. Sunday’s race gets underway at 11:25 local time.