Robert Shwartzman took his first win of the Formula 2 season with a lights-to-flag victory on the streets of Baku.
The Prema driver held off Jehan Daruvala on the opening lap to retain first place from reversed grid pole, then managed a perfectly-timed safety car restart to pull away from the rest of the field.
After the early safety car, Shwartzman was untouchable, gradually built a gap at the front of the order and upped his pace to go for fastest lap points late in the race.
There was drama on the opening lap for a number of drivers, including Shwartzman’s Prema team-mate Oscar Piastri who was involved in a collision with Felipe Drugovich and Liam Lawson.
Hitech GP’s Lawson was knocked into the barriers while Piastri was left with front wing damage and eventually came to a stop. Virtuosi Racing driver Drugovich was later handed a 10-second time penalty for the incident.
A spin for Jack Aitken knocked the HWA driver out on the same lap, while team-mate Alessio Delledda ran up the escape road at turn two and ended his race there.
A full safety car was brought out, giving Daruvala a second opportunity to challenge Shwartzman for the lead. Shwartzman left it until the very last moment to hit the throttle on the restart, giving Daruvala no chance to slipstream past him, and the Carlin driver was left battling Guanyu Zhou behind.
Virtuosi’s Zhou was able to get past Daruvala with DRS assistance, with the charging Dan Ticktum following him past later in the lap.
Zhou wouldn’t hold on to second for long, with Ticktum continuing his climb up the order to take second for Carlin. He wouldn’t be able to move any further forwards, though, as Shwartzman pulled away by five seconds.
Third place for Zhou meant he extended his points lead.
Daruvala managed to hold on to fourth ahead of ART Grand Prix’s Theo Pourchaire, who climbed up the order from seventh on the grid and claimed fastest lap on the final lap, snatching two points from Shwartzman.
Marcus Armstrong had put up a good defence against Pourchaire late in the race, but hadn’t been able to hold him off. Once Pourchaire found a way past, Armstrong came under attack from Ralph Boschung, who also found a way through, and Juri Vips.
Vips and Armstrong ran side-by-side to the chequered flag, but Armstrong just had his nose ahead to take seventh.
David Beckmann and Bent Viscaal completed the top 10, meaning they start on the front row for race two.
Race results (21 laps)
|5||Theo Pourchaire||ART Grand Prix||+11.039s|
|6||Ralph Boschung||Campos Racing||+13.124s|
|8||Juri Vips||Hitech GP||+14.524s|
|9||David Beckmann||Charouz Racing System||+17.299s|
|11||Christian Lundgaard||ART Grand Prix||+19.738s|
|12||Richard Verschoor||MP Motorsport||+21.064s|
|13||Lirim Zendeli||MP Motorsport||+21.837s|
|15||Matteo Nannini||Campos Racing||+35.970s|
|17||Guilherme Samaia||Charouz Racing System||+49.289s|
|Ret||Liam Lawson||Hitech GP|
|Ret||Jack Aitken||HWA Racelab|
|Ret||Alessio Deledda||HWA Racelab|
|Fastest lap: Pourchaire, 1m56.928s
1 Zhou 78 2 Pourchaire 55 3 Piastri 52 4 Ticktum 50 5 Shwartzman 45 6 Lawson 40 7 Daruvala 37 8 Drugovich 29 9 Boschung 26 10 Vips 23