Stoneman triumphs in Zolder opener

Dean Stoneman claimed his second victory of the Formula 2 season at Zolder to close the gap on series leader Jolyon Palmer to five points

Stoneman triumphs in Zolder opener

Stoneman ran unchallenged from pole position and negotiated a safety car restart before controlling the closing stages of the race.

Palmer jumped from fifth on the grid to second on the opening lap - passing Armaan Ebrahim off the line, and then Kazim Vasiliauskas and Benjamin Bailly from the exit of the Kleine chicane into Terlamenbocht.

But once behind Stoneman, Palmer was unable to make any inroads - save for a brief lap of pressure after the restart - and had to settle for second.

Stoneman made a point of his dominance by setting the fastest lap of the race on the final tour.

"The car felt really good," Stoneman reported. "I only used one boost on the first lap. When the safety car came out I needed to get a gap to pull away, so I used another. But throughout the race I knew I was consistent so I could save the rest of boosts for the last two laps to get fastest lap as well.

"Hopefully I can carry on getting to the top of the podium, but you never know what will happen in the next race."

Palmer conceded that he couldn't challenge Stoneman: "Dean pulled quite a big gap and it was pretty hard to make it up. The safety car gave me a chance but he was a bit too quick in this one."

Vasiliauskas retained third throughout after demoting Bailly in the same move as Palmer - regaining the place he lost to the Belgian at the first corner.

Bailly struggled to hold onto fourth and lost pace mid-race after he sustained damage to his right bargeboard. He was passed by Ebrahim and Sergei Afanasiev around the outside into the Kleine chicane on consecutive laps.

Afanasiev took fourth from Ebrahim late on, again at the Kleine chicane. Ivan Samarin finished seventh behind Ebrahim and Bailly.

Championship front runners Philipp Eng and Will Bratt collided during what was already a poor race for both.

Eng came from a long way back to try to take seventh from Bratt into the Bolderberghaarspeldbocht hairpin on the second lap. He pitched the Briton into a spin, which also collected the innocent Jack Clarke.

Eng finished a lap down after pitting for repairs, but Bratt made his way back into the top 10 before the end. He was trying to take eighth from Mihai Marinescu on the last lap when the Romanian squeezed him onto the grass on the approach to the Kleine chicane and he spun out of the race.

Marinescu was involved in the race's other significant incident, too. He had climbed to the fringes of the top 10 after having to start from the back of the grid when his car failed to get away for the green flag lap.

Ahead, Ricardo Teixeira and Benjamin Lariche were squabbling over eighth on the start/finish straight, and it got tight into Turn 1 as Marinescu and Kelvin Snoeks tried to take advantage. Lariche spun out and Snoeks was delayed by a trip through the gravel.

Natalia Kowalska caused the race's only major delay, bringing out the safety car when she spun out of the race shortly before mid-distance.

Pos Driver Time/Gap 1. Dean Stoneman 38m01.434s 2. Jolyon Palmer +7.524 3. Kazim Vasiliauskas +9.090 4. Sergei Afanasiev +9.851 5. Armaan Ebrahim +13.146 6. Benjamin Bailly +15.364 7. Ivan Samarin +20.157 8. Mihai Marinescu +21.337 9. Ricardo Teixeira +31.072 10. Nicola de Marco +32.215 11. Kelvin Snoeks +38.791 12. Parthiva Sureshwaren +40.750 13. Paul Rees +47.171 14. Philipp Eng +1 lap Not classified Will Bratt 24 laps Benjamin Lariche 21 laps Jack Clarke 20 laps Natalia Kowalska 7 laps Plamen Kralev 3 laps Fastest lap, Stoneman 1m24.324s 
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Stoneman dominates Zolder qualifying

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