The third round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship took place at the Circuit de Catalunya, Spain – a circuit that all the drivers know well from multiple seasons of testing at the popular European testing spot.
The BWT Arden pair of Maximilian Gunther and Nirei Fukuzumi went into the Qualifying session after setting the 15th and 17th fastest times in the sole practice session earlier on Friday.
High winds created tricky conditions for the drivers, with many drivers having incidents at Turn 3, 4 and 10 throughout the session.
After managing to avoid any serious incident in the early parts of the session, Gunther set the 12th quickest lap, with Fukuzumi setting the 15th quickest time so far.
The session was interrupted by Red Flag, caused by Santino Ferrucci’s Trident getting beached in the gravel at Turn 3.
With just one short run remaining, the BWT Arden pair finished the session with Gunther in 13th and Fukuzumi 17th.
Spots of rain began to fall for the start of the first FIA F2 race of the weekend. Fukuzumi made a great start to elevate himself in 12th position, gaining 5 positions on the opening lap. Gunther however was less fortunate and taking out of the race at Turn 2, where he was stuck in the gravel trap after being spun around in the opening melee.
Fukuzumi in the other BWT machine was also in the ‘wars’ as he was forced through the gravel on the exit of Turn 4 – dropping him back down to 17th.
The first Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was then deployed to recover his stricken car. The race restarted on lap 4, back to normal racing speeds.
Another VSC was caused on Lap 6 after the two MP Motorsport cars collided, moving Fukuzumi up to 15th position.
The Honda Junior had moved into 14th position, before a third VSC period was caused by the Trident car of Arjun Maini crashing at Turn 5 on lap 11.
Fukuzumi went long in his opening stint, running in 2nd position on the road as he ran long on his Medium compound tyres. Unfortunately, when his pitstop window was due, a crash between Sean Gelael and Louis Deletraz brought out a fourth VSC. Cars are not permitted to pit under the VSC, meaning Fukuzumi fell out of the optimal strategy window.
The Japanese driver was able to finally pit on lap 32 – which was sadly too late for him to fight back through the field on fresh Soft compound tyres with the extra pace.
He crossed the line in 11th position, just shy of Championship points.
The partially reserved grid Sprint Race took place under slightly damp conditions, after overnight rain and intermittent morning showers graced the circuit.
With the racing line still damp, it caused plenty of wheelspin throughout the pack. Fukuzumi lost a couple of place in the long run down to Turn 1. He regained a brace of positions through Turns 4 and 5. Gunther had a safe start and moved up a position from his starting grid slot.
The first VSC was triggered by Nyck de Vries stopping at Turn 11. At this time, Fukuzumi was up to 11th and Gunther in 18th position.
Racing resumed on lap 4, however it was soon neutralised again. Fukuzumi went a move on the inside of Tadasuke Makino’s Russian Time car at Turn 3, but caught a damp patch which took the pair of them out of the race.
This elevated Gunther up to 15th position. The German driver moved up a position after Sergio Sette Camara’s Carlin ground to a halt with a fire extinguisher problem.
He managed his tyres well in the difficult conditions, continuing to make ground through the pack to finish a solid 12th position – gaining eight positions in the race, sadly not enough to earn some championship points for the team.
The next round of the 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship takes place on the streets of Monte-Carlo on the 24-26th May at the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix Weekend.
Both drivers will be new to the challenging streets of the Principality, where the Practice session and Qualifying takes place on the Thursday, with the Feature Race on the Friday and Sprint Race completing the weekend on the Saturday.