Enzo Fittipaldi finally brought home a long-awaited first win in Formula 2. Saving his medium tyres right to the end, the Rodin Carlin driver snatched the victory out of Richard Verschoor’s clutches with a daring move on the penultimate lap.
After inheriting the lead early on, the Van Amersfoort Racing driver had to settle for second. Théo Pourchaire made up three places to secure valuable points for his Championship fight, rounding out the podium in third for ART Grand Prix.
AS IT HAPPENED
Jehan Daruvala rocketed away off the line to maintain the lead at the start. In contrast, Verschoor found himself bogged down at lights out, but managed to fend off Fittipaldi’s advances to hold onto second.
Pourchaire was immediately on the move, dispatching Dennis Hauger out of Turn 1 and then Ralph Boschung into Les Combes to move up to fourth. Championship leader Frederik Vesti also capitalised on a strong start, going from ninth to sixth after making his own way past the #1 MP Motorsport car at Turn 8, whilst Victor Martins passed Zane Maloney at Blanchimont for eighth.
Out front, Daruvala pulled a 1.5s gap by the end of the opening lap but the Indian driver’s race unravelled on Lap 3. A loose headrest eventually became detached, forcing him to pit and retire from the race.
Verschoor inherited the lead as the Safety Car was deployed after Amaury Cordeel spun and stalled on track.
When green flag conditions resumed on Lap 5, Hauger got the perfect run down the Kemmel Straight to repass Vesti into Les Combes. Jack Doohan kept the pressure on Maloney, going deep at the Bus Stop chicane as he tried to go the long way round the Bajan driver.
One lap later and the #14 Invicta Virtuosi Racing man got the job done through Les Combes, before demoting Ralph Boschung on Lap 10 at the same corner.
Having just passed DAMS teammate Arthur Leclerc, Ayumu Iwasa made it two Ferrari juniors in two laps, storming past Oliver Bearman at the final chicane for 10th. The Japanese driver’s charge from 16th showed no signs of stopping, as he too cleared Maloney to take ninth.
Vesti and Martins battled side-by-side from Les Combes down to Pouhon, with the Dane managing to hold sixth, as their duel allowed Doohan to close in. Martins had a clear speed advantage and Vesti eventually had to capitulate, as the ART Grand Prix driver stormed past with the benefit of DRS.
Out front, Verschoor’s healthy two second gap out front was quickly whittled away by Fittipaldi. Taking half a second out of his advantage on Lap 13, the Brazilian driver worked his way to within DRS range of the Van Amersfoort driver.
Nailing his run out of La Source on the penultimate lap, Fittipaldi got the slipstream along the Kemmel Straight and sealed the position into Les Combes.
Further back, Doohan stormed past Vesti for sixth with DRS assistance along the Kemmel Straight leaving the PREMA Racing driver to fend off Iwasa.
Crossing the finish line 2.3s clear, Fittipaldi became the 11th different winner on the 2023 grid ahead of Verschoor and Pourchaire.
Hauger applied the pressure on the ART driver through the latter stages but had to settle for fourth ahead of Martins and Doohan in fifth and sixth places respectively. Vesti kept Iwasa at bay for seventh in a side-by-side drag race out of the final chicane to the line.
KEY QUOTE – Enzo Fittipaldi, Rodin Carlin
“I got my first victory in Formula 2, I’m very happy about that! It was an amazing race. It was actually a really difficult start, but then I was able to manage and have a good pace at the end and was able to get Richard on the last two, three laps. Very happy with the first win, I want to thank all the team for the great car today and looking forward to having a great race tomorrow.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
Frederik Vesti maintains his lead, now on 155 points, but Théo Pourchaire has cut his advantage down to seven points on 148. Ayumu Iwasa remains in third on 133 ahead of Victor Martins on 109. Jack Doohan sits six points off his fellow Alpine Academy junior in fifth on 103.
ART Grand Prix assume the lead of the Teams’ Standings once again on 257 points. The French squad now holds a six-point lead over PREMA Racing, who move onto 251. DAMS are comfortably in third on 172 points, whilst victory moves Rodin Carlin’s points haul up to 148 in fourth.
Oliver Bearman will be looking to add a fourth victory to his rookie tally when he lines up on pole for Sunday’s Feature Race. The 25 laps of racing are set to get underway at 10:00 local time.