Red Bull Ring F2: Perfect Drugovich wins stop-start sprint race

Formula 2 debutant Felipe Drugovich drove an inch-perfect race to win a scrappy reversed-grid counter in the opening round at the Red Bull Ring

Red Bull Ring F2: Perfect Drugovich wins stop-start sprint race

The race took an age to get going thanks to three safety-car periods, two of them caused by the unreliability of the F2 cars, which are now entering their third season of use.

But Drugovich, who stepped up to F2 this year with MP Motorsport after a poor season in FIA F3, nailed each restart to perfection and closest pursuer Louis Deletraz was never able to get on terms.

Owing to the frequency of the early cautions, the race boiled down to a 12-lap sprint, and Drugovich was able to get himself out of DRS range within three laps once the overtaking aid at last kicked in.

With the field all running the hardest Pirelli F2 compound, Drugovich was even able to set fastest lap with three tours remaining and headed home Deletraz by 2.4 seconds.

Drugovich became the first MP driver to win an F2 race since Sergio Sette Camara's sprint-race win in Belgium, back in 2017.

"It was really quite perfect," said Drugovich, whose fade from a front-row start to eighth position in Saturday's feature race gave him the reversed-grid pole.

"I'm so proud of the team - they fixed pretty much the car."

Charouz Racing System driver Deletraz looked vulnerable to Ferrari protege Marcus Armstrong, who had started seventh but pulled off a sensational move into Turn 4 on the opening lap to snatch third from the battling Giuliano Alesi and Dan Ticktum.

Less than a minute later, the rear end of Alesi's HWA Racelab car erupted in flames and he pulled off the circuit, prompting the first safety car.

The field was just about to go racing again when Sean Gelael, who had retired to the pits on Saturday, got stranded on a verge, causing the safety car to stay out one lap longer.

The race had just got going again when Luca Ghiotto, who didn't even make it to the grid on Saturday due to mechanical problems, was pitched into the gravel by Jehan Daruvala at Turn 4, with Guanyu Zhou - who looked set for victory on Saturday before a gearbox glitch struck - taking to the gravel in avoidance.

With Ghiotto's car stranded, the safety car emerged again, but just a couple of laps after the restart Armstrong lost all power and unhelpfully parked on the track on the uphill approach to Turn 3, prompting yet another caution.

Behind Drugovich, second to fifth were pretty close, but on the hard tyre even DRS wasn't enough to promote any overtaking between Deletraz, Ticktum (DAMS), Robert Shwartzman (Prema Racing) and Christian Lundgaard (ART Grand Prix).

Fifth-placed Lundgaard dropped off this group late on, leaving Ticktum - starting his first full F2 season - to beat Shwartzman to the podium.

Most attention was on the battle for sixth between Nobuharu Matsushita and Mick Schumacher, who had passed Saturday winner Callum Ilott at the first restart.

Prema man Schumacher continuously tried the defence of Japanese veteran Matsushita, even nudging him at the exit of Turn 3, but the MP man held firm to take sixth as Schumacher ran out of ideas.

A mistake late in the race from Ilott allowed Campos Racing's Jack Aitken to grab eighth and the final point from the Virtuosi ace, while Nikita Mazepin (Hitech GP) won an epic bundle for 10th that involved most of the rest of the field.

F2 sprint race results - 28 laps

Pos Driver Team Gap
1 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport 42m05.526s
2 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System 2.469s
3 Dan Ticktum DAMS 2.790s
4 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing 3.330s
5 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix 5.396s
6 Nobuharu Matsushita MP Motorsport 9.177s
7 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 9.741s
8 Jack Aitken Campos Racing 14.041s
9 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi 14.272s
10 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix 15.395s
11 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin 17.528s
12 Roy Nissany Trident 18.471s
13 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System 19.118s
14 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi 19.668s
15 Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing 22.082s
16 Jehan Daruvala Carlin 24.290s
17 Marino Sato Trident 24.909s
18 Artem Markelov BWT HWA RACELAB 1 Lap
- Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix Retirement
- Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix Retirement
- Sean Gelael DAMS Retirement
- Giuliano Alesi BWT HWA RACELAB Retirement

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