|2018 Le Castellet Feature Race|
The Circuit Paul Ricard
|Date||23 June 2018|
|Event||2018 French Grand Prix|
|Location||Circuit Paul Ricard Le Castellet, Var, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France|
|Lap length||5.842 km (3.631 mi)|
|Distance||30 laps / 175.260 km (108.902 mi)|
|Pole Sitter||George Russell|
|Team||ART Grand Prix|
|Driver||Nyck de Vries|
|Team||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing|
|Time||1:47.085 on lap 26|
|George Russell||Sérgio Sette Câmara||Luca Ghiotto|
|Winner Team||ART Grand Prix|
|2018 Monaco Sprint Race||2018 Le Castellet Sprint Race|
The 2018 Le Castellet Feature Race, otherwise known as the 2018 Le Castellet Race 1, was the ninth race of the 2018 FIA Formula Two Championship, staged at the Circuit Paul Ricard on the 23 June 2018. The race, which was held in support of the returning French Grand Prix, was the first race visit to "Le Castellet" for F2, after the series staged a pre-season test at the circuit earlier in the year.
Qualifying had seen George Russell snatch pole positions after a strong afternoon, the Brit overcoming quali-specialist Alexander Albon in the closing stages. Championship leader Lando Norris was to start from third ahead of his teammate Sérgio Sette Câmara, while Luca Ghiotto completed the top five.
It was a dry afternoon as the F2 field assembled on the grid for the start, although dark clouds hanging over the circuit suggested rain was only a few moments away. However, it would be dry as pole sitter Russell sprinted clear at the start with Câmara hot on his heels, while Norris and Artem Markelov were left stranded on the grid having stalled.
However, as Russell led the field into turn three the heavens opened, with the Paul Ricard circuit quickly getting wet as the rain thundered down. Indeed, come the end of the opening lap everyone was on edge, with Luca Ghiotto and Nicholas Latifi both having off-track moments.
Russell began to pull clear during the early stages, largely due to the fact that his nearest challengers were constantly falling off the slippery tarmac. It was therefore only a matter of time before a VSC appeared, with a spin for Sean Gelael causing several drivers to stop for wets.
Yet, those who did stop, which included Norris and Jack Aitken quickly discovered that the circuit was drying, for the rain had stopped and the heat of the early French summer was quickly burning the standing water away. Their races were therefore destroyed as, out front, Russell continued to eek out his lead at the head of the field.
Russell made his switch to medium Pirelli tyres on lap eighteen, with Câmara now his closest challenger having pitted a lap earlier. Indeed, their duel would come to the fore on the final lap, with the Brazilian racer managing to get alongside Russell into the final corner with a lunge on the last lap.
Ultimately, however, Russell would power out of the final turn to claim his third victory of the season, with Câmara a fighting second. Roberto Merhi survived the early chaos to finish third on track, only to get disqualified during post-race scrutineering, meaning Luca Ghiotto completed the podium.
2018 would see the French Grand Prix return to the Formula One calendar for the first time in a decade, with a mid-June visit scheduled for the premier single-seater category. As ever, F1's signature support series Formula Two would be dragged along too, with F2 set to make its competitive debut at the Circuit Paul Ricard ahead of the XCV Grand Prix de France. The circuit had previously hosted one of the two pre-season tests, with F2 using the full 5.842 layout.
The big news ahead of F2's rendezvous with Le Castellet would be an attempt by Scuderia Toro Rosso to poach McLaren Junior Driver Lando Norris ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix. Indeed, the Italian Red Bull junior squad were looking for alternatives to partner 2016 GP2 Series Champion Pierre Gasly, having decided that Brendon Hartley was too far off the Frenchman's pace. However, McLaren, which later claimed to have received three offers for Norris' services, rejected the offer, stating that the Brit was not up for sale. Norris himself would reflect these remarks, with the Brit leading the F2 Championship a third of the way through his rookie season.
Elsewhere, Norris' Carlin teammate Sérgio Sette Câmara was given permission to start the race, passing a pre-race fitness test requested by the FIA. Indeed, the Brazilian had been forced to sit out both races in Monaco after crashing during qualifying for the Feature Race in Monte Carlo. Câmara had under gone surgery to repair his hand during F2's month away from racing, but was declared fit enough to take part in the first of six races to be held in three weeks.
Pirelli, meanwhile, had decided that the field should be issued with the usual balance of three "prime" and two "option" P-Zero slick tyres, having tested all compounds at the pre-season test. Indeed, the Italian tyre firm would bring along a combination of white walled medium compound tyres as the "prime", while the "option" compound would be found in the form of the supersoft. That specific combination had been used at the Baku weekend, although whether the choice would have a greater impact on strategy would wait to be seen.
Into the Championship and another points finish, and another podium visit, in Monte Carlo had ensured that Norris extended his lead in the Championship, with the Brit's tally standing at 98 points ahead of the visit to Le Castellet. Behind him sat Artem Markelov, level on points with Alexander Albon but ahead on count-back, although they were some 27 points behind Norris after eight races. It was status quo behind after George Russell and Jack Aitken failed to score, while Monaco Sprint Race winner Antonio Fuoco had moved closer to the lead group with his maiden victory.
Likewise, the weekend on the Mediterranean coast had been a profitable one for Carlin, with the British squad extending their lead in the Teams Championship despite only fielding one car across the two races. Indeed, ART Grand Prix left Monte Carlo 33 points behind the F2 rookies, with arch-rivals DAMS a further fourteen points back. Russian Time, meanwhile, had moved ahead of Pertamina Prema, while Charouz Racing System inched closer to the top five after their maiden one-two.
The full entry list for the 2018 Le Castellet Feature Race is displayed below:
It had been a warm day in southern France ahead of qualifying for the Feature Race, although as the 30 minute session loomed temperatures began to fall. Otherwise, there were no issues ahead of the session, with the entire field set to qualify on the supersoft Pirelli tyres. As for a target time a 1:42.226 was theoretically possible, an effort that Lando Norris had set during the pre-season test.
In a surprise start to qualifying it was a BWT Arden, not a Trident, that led the field out onto the circuit at the start of the session, with Maximilian Günther at the head of the queue. However, Santino Ferrucci would be second in the queue, and duly jousted with Günther at the start of the lap to try and get ahead. Ultimately, it was Günther who set the first time of the day, before Ferrucci and Norris went ahead.
The first sub-1:46.000 lap came through the efforts of George Russell a few moments later, quickly followed by Alexander Albon who slotted into second. Nyck de Vries then nestled himself between the two, with the rest of the field thundering through in the Dutchman's wake. The field then circled around again, before Russell found half a second to head into the mid-session pause at the top of the timesheet.
After a quick swap for fresh supersoft tyres the field re-appeared again, albeit after Ferrucci had disappeared briefly with a stuck throttle. He, however, would manage to get back to the pits and lead the field out for the second part of the session, although his Trident seemed to have lost pace. Out front, meanwhile, Russell's seemingly secure pole time was being seriously challenged.
Indeed, de Vries was charging hard on his first flying lap post-change, and duly hit the top of the timesheet with a 1:45.269. Unfortuantely for him Russell was on a charge, and two fastest sectors put the Brit onto a 1:44.469. de Vries himself was en-route to challenge that time too, only for his Pertamina Prema to falter as he came onto the Mistral, ending his hopes.
As such, de Vries would tumble down the order, with Alexander Albon and Norris also setting sub-1:45.000 times. Sérgio Sette Câmara was next ahead of Luca Ghiotto, both around a tenth away from the 1:45.000 mark, while de Vries ended the session in eighth behind Jack Aiten and Artem Markelov. The rest of the field was evenly spaced, with two seconds covering Russell on pole, and Ralph Boschung in twentieth.
The final qualifying result for the 2018 Le Castellet Feature Race are outlined below:
|2018 Le Castellet Feature Race Qualifying Result|
|1st||8||George Russell||ART Grand Prix||1:44.469||—||1|
|4th||18||Sérgio Sette Câmara||Carlin||1:45.092||+0.623s||4|
|5th||14||Luca Ghiotto||Campos Vexatec Racing||1:45.109||+0.640s||5|
|6th||7||Jack Aitken||ART Grand Prix||1:45.143||+0.674s||6|
|7th||1||Artem Markelov||Russian Time||1:45.250||+0.781s||7|
|8th||4||Nyck de Vries||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||1:45.269||+0.800s||8|
|9th||20||Louis Delétraz||Charouz Racing System||1:45.278||+0.809s||9|
|11th||11||Maximilian Günther||BWT Arden||1:45.608||+1.139s||11|
|12th||3||Sean Gelael||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||1:45.721||+1.252s||12|
|14th||9||Roberto Merhi||MP Motorsport||1:45.753||+1.284s||14|
|15th||21||Antonio Fuoco||Charouz Racing System||1:45.919||+1.450s||15|
|16th||2||Tadasuke Makino||Russian Time||1:45.945||+1.476s||16|
|18th||12||Nirei Fukuzumi||BWT Arden||1:46.060||+1.591s||18|
|19th||15||Roy Nissany||Campos Vexatec Racing||1:46.150||+1.681s||19|
|20th||10||Ralph Boshung||MP Motorsport||1:46.500||+2.031s||20|
|______________||Sérgio Sette Câmara|
|______________||Nyck de Vries|
It was a warm Saturday afternoon in southern France ahead of the Feature Race at Circuit Paul Ricard, with no issues to be found throughout the field. However, while the temperatures were pleasant, if a little on the high-side, dark clouds were looming over the circuit, with rain expected to make an appearance during the race. Regardless, it was pole sitter George Russell whom led the field around onto the grid with, unusually, no stallers on the formation lap.
Unfortunately, there would be some stallers on the start proper, with Championship leader Lando Norris and Artem Markelov both left stranded on the grid. Miraculously neither was collected by the chasing pack, which had got used to dodging stranded cars at starts, with the field thundering away behind the fast starting Russell. Behind the Brit came Sérgio Sette Câmara having dealt with Antonio Fuoco into turn one, although eyes quickly turned to the skies as the heavens opened.
In the ensuing sharp shower, which quickly dampened the circuit, Russell and Câmara squirmed clear of the pack, with most of the drivers just entering turn two when the rain ensued. An early victim of the conditions was to be found in the form of Jack Aitken, who slalomed his way down towards turn three, moments before Nicholas Latifi was spat out of the pack in turn three itself. Indeed, the Canadian racer, running in the middle of the field, got on the kerb on the apex of turn three, sent himself into a pirouette and, ultimately, into one of Paul Ricard's few gravel traps.
That was not it for the opening lap dramas, for Luca Ghiotto sent himself into a spin at the start of the Mistral straight, knocking his front right wheel out of alignment. Indeed, the Italian had spun right across the track, coming within inches of the side of Louis Delétraz, whom had ducked the opposite way to everyone else in avoiding the Italian. Out front, meanwhile, Russell was seemingly unaffected by the weather, and duly completed the opening tour with a healthy lead over Câmara and Alexander Albon.
Having got over the initial shock of the rain the drivers managed to adapt to the conditions, with no more major mistakes in spite of the circuit continuing to dampen. Conditions were instead good enough for DRS to become active on lap three, allowing Aitken to dive past Delétraz for fourth at the start of said lap. Yet, while others were enjoying the damp others were not, with Roy Nissany going for a high-speed spin on the Mistral, just as Roberto Merhi cut the chicane having locked up on the damp kerb.
More mistakes would creep into the field, with Aitken wisely picking turn ten to have his second big moment of the afternoon, the Brit just managing to keep his car pointing in the right direction as he got out of shape at the apex. Then, Sean Gelael sent himself into a rather lazy spin in sixth place, drifting across the circuit just as teammate Nyck de Vries led a pack of cars into turn twelve. Fortunately no-one of the de Vries train managed to collect the Indonesian racer, although the Dutchman himself would lose out to Tadasuke Makino and Latifi.
Into the stops and Aitken was the first to blink on lap nine, shooting into the pits for a set of wets, followed in by Norris whom had got going at the back of the field. They would both benefit from the fact that Gelael had never recovered from his spin, for the Indonesian racer had stalled in the middle of turn twelve and was stranded. As such, a VSC was required to clear the errant Prema from the circuit safely.
The race would barely get going at the end of lap ten before another VSC was required, this time to pick up a stranded Ralph Boschung from the circuit. The Swiss racer had brought his MP machine to a halt on the start/finish straight at the start of lap thirteen, a lack of drive the suspected cause. His retirement coincided with the majority of the stops, with most of the field pitting just after the VSC ended to swap their supersofts for mediums, the track now too dry for wets.
Albon was one of those to pit, and duly went streaking off on his fresh rubber to catch Russell and Câmara, whom had curiously decided to stay out on their supers. Ultimately, however, Albon would not get a chance to challenge for the lead, for his Mecachrome engine developed an issue and duly sent him back into the pits for repairs. With the pressure off from behind Câmara made his stop on lap seventeen, although his hopes of an undercut on fresh rubber were dashed when Russell covered his stop a lap later.
Those two would go into a tense stalemate at the front of the field, with those two exchanging fastest laps as they sprinted clear of the chasing pack. Indeed, the only man on a similar pace would be de Vries, although the Dutchman's stop form third would dump him back to fifth. Yet, the Dutchman was fired up from his earlier issues, and duly scythed back into fourth with an excellent dive on Fuoco into turn fifteen.
Into the closing stages and Câmara was throwing everything at Russell, the Brazilian racer even accidentally cutting chicane having locked his brakes badly at the end of the Mistral. That seemed to have ended any hopes of a fight for victory, until Câmara suddenly appeared in the Brit's mirrors as they came to complete the final lap. Yet, the Brazilian's late lunge into turn fifteen was not enough, allowing Russell to sweep home to claim his third F2 victory.
Behind, Merhi managed to fend off the attentions of a resurged Ghiotto for third, Fuoco caught de Vries sleeping to claim fifth, while Latifi was mugged by Makino heading onto the Mistral eighth. That was, until Latifi lunged back inside the Japanese racer through turn ten to reclaim the position, with the pair dicing their way to the line. Ultimately it was Latifi who won the battle to start on reverse pole, with Nirei Fukuzumi cruising home to claim the final point in tenth.
After the race it was found that Merhi's car had raced with illegal tyre pressures, with the Spaniard's tyres not inflated to the specifications outlined by Pirelli. As such, the Spaniard was disqualified from the results of the race, promoting Ghiotto onto the podium, Makino into eighth, and Arjun Maini into the points. Albon, meanwhile was originally classified as a finisher, only for his result to be corrected to show him as "non-classified" as he had failed to complete enough of the race distance.
The final classification of the 2018 Le Castellet Feature Race is displayed below:
|2018 Le Castellet Feature Race Race Result|
|Pos.||No.||Name||Team||Laps||Race Time||Fastest lap||Pts.|
|1st||8||George Russell||ART Grand Prix||30||0:58:28.750||1:47.732||29|
|2nd||18||Sérgio Sette Câmara||Carlin||30||+1.108s||1:47.557||18|
|3rd||14||Luca Ghiotto||Campos Vexatec Racing||30||+37.879s||1:48.828||15|
|4th||21||Antonio Fuoco||Charouz Racing System||30||+43.655||1:48.480||12|
|5th||4||Nyck de Vries||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||30||+45.680s||1:47.085||12|
|6th||20||Louis Delétraz||Charouz Racing System||30||+53.226s||1:48.946||8|
|8th||2||Tadasuke Makino||Russian Time||30||+1:17.343||1:49.668||4|
|9th||12||Nirei Fukuzumi||BWT Arden||30||+1:20.384||1:50.029||2|
|11th||7||Jack Aitken||ART Grand Prix||30||+1:32.469||1:49.854|
|12th||11||Maximilian Günther||BWT Arden||30||+1:37.662||1:49.251|
|13th||17||Santino Ferrucci||Trident||29||+1 Lap||1:49.232|
|14th||1||Artem Markelov||Russian Time||29||+1 Lap||1:48.328|
|15th||15||Roy Nissany||Campos Vexatec Racing||29||+1 Lap||1:50.182|
|16th||19||Lando Norris||Carlin||29||+1 Lap||1:48.010|
|DSQ*||9||Roberto Merhi||MP Motorsport||30||Disqualified||1:48.462|
|NC†||5||Alexander Albon||DAMS||18||+12 Laps||1:48.267|
|Ret||10||Ralph Boschung||MP Motorsport||12||Retired||1:54.397|
|Ret||3||Sean Gelael||Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing||7||Retired||1:54.928|
- Bold indicates a driver started from pole.
- Italics indicate that a driver set fastest lap.
- * Merhi was disqualified after his tyres were found to be below the minimum pressure specified by Pirelli.
- † Albon was not classified as he failed to complete 90% of the race distance.
- First Formula Two race to be held on the Circuit Paul Ricard.
- George Russell claimed his fist pole position start.
- Third career win for Russell.
- ART Grand Prix claimed their sixth victory as an entrant in Formula Two.
- It was also the French squad's 54th triumph at GP2/F2 level.
- First time in 2018 that Lando Norris failed to score.
Despite failing to score for the first time all season it was still Lando Norris who led the Drivers' Championship after the feature race, although his gap had been cut to just seven points. Indeed, pole and victory had propelled George Russell into second, having won more races than anyone else during the first nine races. Artem Markelov was still level with Alexander Albon having dropped to third, while Sérgio Sette Câmara moved back into the top five.
In the Teams' Championship it was still advantage Carlin although they, much like their driver Norris, had seen their lead cut at the top of the standings. Indeed, Russell's victory had dragged ART Grand Prix closer to the British squad, with 22 points now separating first and second in the title fight. DAMS remained in third but had lost ground to the lead duo, while Pertamina Prema and Charouz Racing System displaced Russian Time in fourth and fifth.
Only point scoring drivers and teams are shown.
Images and Videos:
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 'FIA Formula 2 Championship 2018 Season Calendar Unveiled', fiaformula2.com, (FIA Formula 2, 06/11/2017), http://www.fiaformula2.com/News-Room/News/2017/11_November/FIA-Formula-2-Championship-2018-season-calendar-unveiled/, (Accessed 13/06/2018)
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 '2018 ROUND 5 PREVIEW: LE CASTELLET, FRANCE', fiaformula2.com, (FIA Formula Two, 20/06/2018), http://www.fiaformula2.com/News-Room/News/2018/06_June/2018-Round-5-preview-Le-Castellet-France/, (Accessed 21/06/2018)
- ↑ 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 'RUSSELL TAKES MAIDEN F2 POLE AT LE CASTELLET', fiaformula2.com, (FIA Formula Two, 22/06/2018), http://www.fiaformula2.com/News-Room/News/2018/06_June/Russell-takes-maiden-F2-pole-at-Le-Castellet/, (Accessed 23/06/2018)
- ↑ 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 'RUSSELL STUNS IN CHALLENGING LE CASTELLET FEATURE RACE', fiaformula2.com, (FIA Formula Two, 23/06/2018), http://www.fiaformula2.com/News-Room/News/2018/06_June/Russell-stuns-in-challenging-Le-Castellet-Feature-Race/, (Accessed 25/06/2018)
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 '2018 ROUND 5 FEATURE RACE PENALTIES', fiaformula2.com, (FIA Formula Two, 23/06/2018), http://www.fiaformula2.com/News-Room/News/2018/06_June/2018-Round-5-Feature-Race-Penalties/, (Accessed 25/06/2018)
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Jonathan Noble, 'Norris says Toro Rosso offer won’t distract him from F2 title bid', motorsport.com, (Motorsport Network, 06/06/2018), https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/norris-toro-rosso-offer-wont-distract-me-from-f2-bid-1044871/ (Accessed 21/06/2018)
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 Jack Benyon, 'Sette Camara gets green light to race in Paul Ricard', motorsport.com, (Motorsport Network, 21/06/2018), https://www.motorsport.com/fia-f2/news/sette-camara-gets-green-light-to-race-in-paul-ricard-1047179/, (Accessed 21/06/2018)
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 'PIRELLI TO SUPPLY MEDIUM AND SUPERSOFT TYRES IN FRANCE', fiaformula2.com, (FIA Formula Two, 19/06/2018), http://www.fiaformula2.com/News-Room/News/2018/06_June/Pirelli-to-supply-medium-and-supersoft-tyres-to-France/, (Accessed 21/06/2018)
- ↑ 'Teams and Drivers', fiaformula2.com, (FIA Formula 2, 2018), http://www.webcitation.org/6ySMzYNSv, (Accessed 14/06/2018)
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 'Formula 2 2018 Results: Le Castellet', fiaformula2.com, (FIA Formula 2, 2018), http://www.fiaformula2.com/Results/?raceid=987&seasonid=175, (Accessed 23/06/2018)
- ↑ 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 11.11 11.12 11.13 11.14 11.15 11.16 11.17 11.18 11.19 11.20 11.21 11.22 11.23 11.24 11.25 11.26 'F2 Race 1: France', skysports.com, (Sky plc., 2018), http://www.skysports.com/watch/video/sports/f1/11385088/f2-feature-race-monaco, (Accessed 09/07/2018)