FIA Formula 2 headed to Paul Ricard in France for Round 5 of the 2019 Championship for Races 9-10 of the season.
Qualifying was a chaotic session, where Red Flags scuppered the laps of many drivers on the grid – including Antoine, who was forced to stop on circuit with an issue in the closing stages, meaning he could on line up 15th on the grid for the Feature Race.
Teammate Tatiana Calderon endured a difficult session, again blighted by the stop-start session as she set the 19th quickest time of the session.
The Feature Race started in dramatic style, as the two Prema Racing cars of Sean Gelael and Mick Schumacher came together at Turn 3, triggering a Virtual Safety Car period as debris was littered around the track by a puncture for Schumacher.
In the melee, Nikita Mazepin and Ralph Boschung also collided at Turn 6, with Dorian Boccolacci also stopping on track – elevating the BWT Arden duo up the order as they navigated past the carnage.
A red flag was deployed due to the amount of time required to clear the circuit of the stricken cars and damage. At this point, Antoine was running in 11th position and Tatiana in 13th position – well in contention for the points paying positions.
The race restarted on Lap 5 and the two BWT Arden’s held station on the first lap as they brought the tyres and brakes up to temperature.
Driver’s on the soft tyre began to pit from Lap 8 onwards to run the hard compound tyres on for the rest of the race. Tatiana pitted on Lap 9 for a new set of tyres, whilst Antoine kept going on his ‘alternate strategy’.
A second Virtual Safety Car period was deployed for the stranded Charouz of Callum Ilott on Lap 15. Antoine was up to 4th and yet to pit, with Tatiana running in 14th position at half race distance – setting the fastest lap at the time four laps later.
Antoine pitted on Lap 21 to fit the soft compound tyres to run to the end, re-joining in 13th but on maximum attack on his fresh tyres.
His pace on new tyres was impressive to see him move into 10th position in just two laps and into the points paying positions.
The third and final Virtual Safety Car was deployed following Luca Ghiotto and Juan Manuel Correa collided at Turn 6, elevating Antoine to 9th position and Tatiana up to 13th in the order.
Antoine managed to crucially gain one more position in the closing stage to take 8th position at the chequered flag – as well as the reverse grid pole position for Sunday’s Sprint Race.
Tatiana crossed the line in 12th position, just missing out on a top-ten and points paying finish.
Sunday saw Antoine make a brilliant start from pole position to cement his position at the head of the pack – building a 1.1 second lead on the opening lap. Tatiana held 12th on the opening lap, before challenging Callum Ilott for 11th as they battled through Turns 1-4.
Antoine was able to balance his pace and tyre management from Jack Aitken behind in the opening stages, controlling his pace whilst keeping an eye on the threat from DRS behind. Tatiana was battling for 13th, as she was fighting with Guiliano Alesi and Mick Schumacher for track position.
After setting the fastest lap of the race at the time, it all began to keep falling Antoine’s way, as the pack behind began to battle whilst the Frenchman kept up his strong pace management – pulling out a 2.3 second advantage out front at half distance.
Tatiana was still in the thick of the action battling for positions, running in 15th position at the race moved into the closing stages.
Anthoine continued to manage his pace to Correa behind him, taking a comfortable ‘home’ victory at the end of the 21 lap Sprint Race – sealing his and BWT Arden’s second victory of the 2019 campaign. Teammate Tatiana was classified in 17th position at the end of the race after a late spin in the race, rounding out a battling weekend for the Columbian.
Following Anthoine’s superb victory, FIA Formula 2 will be back in action in just one week’s time at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria for Round 6 and Races 11-12 of the championship.
Photos Courtesy of Dutch Photo Agency