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Iwasa avoids the chaos to win Melbourne F2 feature race

by Roger Gascoigne

Photo: Red Bull

Ayumu Iwasa drove an exemplary race to take victory in an incident-packed Formula 2 feature race at Albert Park as chaos erupted around him.

The DAMS driver stayed clear of trouble, inheriting the lead when Prema’s Frederik Vesti pitted from the alternative tyre strategy, and eased to victory in a three-lap sprint to the finish after a late safety car.

ART Grand Prix’s Theo Pourchaire was unable to match Iwasa’s pace and had to settle for second ahead of the other DAMS car of Arthur Leclerc, who drove a strong race from seventh on the grid. On fresh soft tyres, Vesti pushed Leclerc hard for the final podium position but ultimately was unable to make a move.

Iwasa made a perfect start from pole position to lead into Turn 1 as Victor Martins drew alongside his team-mate Pourchaire before taking to the grass on the exit, allowing Pourchaire to regain the place.

As Iwasa pulled away, Pourchaire was forced to defend from Martins and Hitech’s Isack Hadjar. Prema’s Ollie Bearman was up to fifth, although he would later be penalised for a collision with Rodin Carlin’s Zane Maloney on the opening lap.

Virtuosi’s Jack Doohan was flying from 15th on the grid, diving inside Jak Crawford for ninth and pitching the Hitech driver into the barriers as the two touched wheels.

Martins had been the first to pit for soft tyres and the rest of the soft-tyre runners pitted immediately, leaving Vesti in front ahead of Doohan, Roy Nissany, Enzo Fittipaldi and Kush Maini, with Iwasa rejoining in sixth.

As the field jostled for position in a hectic pit lane, Hadjar clipped the rear wheel of Bearman’s car, puncturing the Prema driver’s rear tyre and leaving him with a slow lap back to the pits to change back to softs.

Once racing resumed, Vesti quickly pulled out a three-second gap as Nissany held up an increasingly frustrated field in second. Fittipaldi tried to pass round the outside through Turns 9 and 10 but in doing so, forced Nissany off the track, allowing Maini up to second in the confusion, with Iwasa now in third. The Brazilian received a five-second time penalty for the action.

With Vesti extending the gap out front to over six seconds, Maini was holding up Iwasa and Pourchaire before the DAMS driver found a way past into Turn 11 on lap 20, Pourchaire following him through on the subsequent tour.

Iwasa was soon able to start chipping away at the gap to Vesti, with the Dane still yet to stop. On lap 26, Nissany continued his incident-filled race, hitting the barriers on the run down to Turn 3, bringing out the safety car once more which allowed Vesti and the other drivers yet to pit to make their mandatory stops.

One of those, Fittipaldi, locked up into Turn 1 on exiting the pits, before spinning on the exit of Turn 2, hitting the barrier on the inside of the track as he got going in the right direction. In so doing, he had damaged his rear suspension which let go, pitching him into the barriers and narrowly missing Nissany’s stricken car.

The safety car came in with three laps remaining, but there was further incident even before the start line as Martins locked up into Turn 13, hitting the back of the unfortunate Dennis Hauger, ending the MP driver’s strong race and likely podium.

Iwasa timed his restart to perfection and eased to victory over Pourchaire with Leclerc, who suddenly found himself in third, just managing to hold off Vesti who had quickly disposed of Maloney as he chased Leclerc down on his new soft tyres.

Maloney held on to fifth, ahead of Richard Verschoor who had managed to stay out of trouble to pick his way through the chaos from 18th on the grid.

Doohan took eighth after pitting for softs and then immediately back to medium tyres under the safety car with Maini and Roman Stanek completing the points scorers.

Race results (33 laps)
Pos Driver Team Gap
1 Ayumu Iwasa DAMS 1h00m30.247s
2 Theo Pourchaire ART Grand Prix +0.828s
3 Arthur Leclerc DAMS +1.484s
4 Frederik Vesti Prema +1.815s
5 Zane Maloney Carlin +5.290s
6 Jehan Daruvala MP Motorsport +6.779s
7 Richard Verschoor Van Amersfoort Racing +7.107s
8 Jack Doohan Virtuosi Racing +7.764s
9 Kush Maini Campos Racing +8.294s
10 Roman Stanek Trident +10.892s
11 Juan Manuel Correa Van Amersfoort Racing +11.126s
12 Clement Novalak Trident +11.593s
13 Brad Benavides PHM by Charouz +13.902s
14 Amaury Cordeel Virtuosi Racing +14.276s
15 Ollie Bearman Prema +16.734s
16 Victor Martins ART Grand Prix +17.299s
17 Isack Hadjar Hitech GP +17.437s
18 Ralph Boschung Campos Racing +24.039s
19 Dennis Hauger MP Motorsport + 3 laps
Ret Enzo Fittipaldi Carlin
Ret Roy Nissany PHM by Charouz
Ret Jak Crawford Hitech GP
Fastest lap: Hauger, 1m31.041s

Championship standings
 Iwasa 58   2 Pourchaire 50   3 Vesti 42   4 Boschung 33   5 Leclerc 33   6 Daruvala 32   7 Hauger 30   8 Maloney 29   9 Maini 26   10 Verschoor 25