The FIA Formula 2 Championship headed to the Red Bull Ring, Austria for Round 6 and Races 11-12 of the 2018 Championship.
BWT Arden drivers Gunther and Fukuzumi eased into the weekend with 10th and 14th fastest times in the sole Practice session of the weekend, ran exclusively on the ‘Soft’ compound Pirelli tyres.
In Qualifying, now on the ‘Super Soft’ tyres, drivers had up to four attempts at a fast time (two in each run) around the 4.326km circuit.
Gunther hooked up a very good final lap to put himself 6th on the grid for the Feature Race, with teammate Fukuzumi setting the 17th fastest time.
Overnight, a decision was made by the FIA – in light of the recent start issues with the clutches in the new 2018 F2 car, to run the start of the races as ‘rolling starts’ from behind the Safety Car.
As the Safety Car peeled into the pits and the Feature Race began, Gunther wasted no time in moving his way up to 5th position – passing Arjun Maini into Turn 1 with a bold move.
Gunther spent the early part in the race well in contention for 4th position, as a train of cars formed behind Jack Aitken as the race hotted up at the front.
The Safety Car was deployed however on Lap 6, following a car stopping on circuit with a technical issue and another driver retiring from the race with a puncture.
Driver’s who started on the ‘Super Soft’ tyre took this chance to pit and swap to the more durable ‘Soft’ tyres and run to the end of the race – Gunther was one of these pitting from 7th position, with Fukuzumi also pitting.
The race then was all about tyre management, for both those who started on the ‘Soft’ tyres, as well as those who pitted early to run them for the rest of the race duration. Gunther was charging through the field in the stages after the Safety Car, moving up to a net 5th position after battles with Aitken and Louis Deletraz.
A second Safety Car was deployed when a car stopped on the exit of Turn 1. Gunther again maximised his restart, passing championship leader Lando Norris for 4th position and in with a shout of a podium position. Soon however, Gunther began to succumb too excessive tyre wear with a handful of laps to go, meaning he was powerless to defend against his rivals as he began to drop back.
In the closing stages of the race, both BWT Arden drivers were in the points and also in contention for 8th position, which meant ‘pole position’ for the Sprint Race tomorrow.
Fukuzumi held 8th into the final lap after his tyre management saw him move into the coveted position, with Gunther in 10th, just holding on for the points paying positions.
Both of them came under threat from Artem Markelov, who pitted late for the ‘Super Soft’ tyres and enjoyed a superior pace advantage. He cruelly denied Fukuzumi 8th position in the final corners, as well as pushing Gunther out of the points an action packed final lap of the race.
Fukuzumi came home in 9th position, bagging two points for the team. Gunther was unlucky to finish only 12th after starring early on.
Overnight, he was handed a penalty for what was deemed an ‘unsafe release’ after his pitstop. This meant he was classified 15th and would start the Sprint Race from this position.
In the Sprint Race, Fukuzumi was elevated into 8th position when the race got underway after the ‘rolling start’, challenging for more early on. Gunther was again eager to make up ground as he did in the start of the Feature Race, moving up the order early on.
All driver’s started on the ‘Soft’ compound Pirelli tyres, making it a race all about tyre management and balancing all out pace, against protecting your tyre wear to last the entire 28-lap Sprint Race.
Fukuzumi managed his tyres well and moved up into the battle for 6th-7th, however his pace brought Nicholas Latifi with him, as they battled hard for the final points position. After holding the position for so long and valiantly fighting for a double point score, Fukuzumi just lost out by 0.8s, crossing the line in 9th position.
Gunther managed to make up solid ground in the Sprint Race, moving up from 15th position at the start to finish in 12th position at the chequered flag, just two seconds behind Fukuzumi.
The next round of the FIA F2 Championship takes place at BWT Arden’s home race at Silverstone on the 6-8 July. It will be the final race in the ‘Triple Header’ weekends of racing, where the championship has been in action at Paul Ricard, the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone in three consecutive weekends.