Pertamina Arden drivers Norman Nato and Sean Gelael travelled to Baku for the fourth round
of the FIA Formula 2 Championship. Friday 23 June saw the drivers take to the grid for qualifying,
with temperatures soaring all drivers were on the circuit within the first
Red flags were out for a large amount of this qualifying session with three red flags within the first half of the session. The stop/start nature of the session was having an effect on the field with drivers complaining about their tyres not getting into the correct window of performance. As the chequered flag fell, Norman qualified in P12 (1:53.900) and Sean qualified in P13 (1:54.032) for the Feature Race on Saturday.
Saturday saw the start of the Feature Race, both Norman and Sean started well to make it into the points and the top ten, however the safety car was deployed within the first lap. During this race there were plenty of safety cars and the rate of attrition was quite high. With the field bunching up multiple times behind the safety car, it was hard for our drivers to progress up the positions.
By lap 7 already two safety cars had been deployed and as most drivers chose to start the race on super soft tyres they decided to come in for a pit stop. Sean had battling into the fight for reverse grid pole and 8th position, whilst Norman had made good use of an early pitstop to seize track position and was running in the top 6.
During lap 25, unfortunately Sean made contact with the barrier at the tight turn 8, leaving Sergey Sirotkin nowhere to go but into the side of him, blocking the circuit. The safety car re-emerged to lead the remainder of the drivers into the pitlane for a red flag finish. With the red flag finish it left Norman classified 6th and Sean 14th at the finish for Pertamina Arden.
The Sprint Race saw Norman start from 4th on the grid due to the reverse grid nature of the Sprint Race, with Sean starting 14th. As the light went green, Norman had a storming start which saw him alongside front row starter Oliver Rowland. During the first lap Norman was hot on the heels of Rowland with Latifi charging behind him. As they came through to the second lap Norman was determined to dispatch Boschung and the pair touched as the Frenchman dived down the inside into turn two, causing minor damage to Norman's front wing.
This damage seemed not too affect him, as he set fastest laps in pursuit of the lead of the race. Into turn two Rowland suffered a gearbox issue, allowing Norman to take the lead of the race. Rival and pursuer Nyck De Vries made a mistake at turn three which gave the Pertamina Arden driver a healthy advantage. Sean had made up a brace of positions in the early stages and was on the fringes of the top ten setting a strong pace.
Championship leader Charles Leclerc was up to 4th at half distance and running up to a second
faster than anyone else. Leclerc moved up to 2nd position by lap 13 and begin to reduce the gap to lead that Norman had built up. Leclerc was closing in fast, however he was given a 10 second
penalty for failing to slow down during the yellow flags earlier in the race. Leclerc took the lead with three laps to go, Nato offered minimal resistance knowing he just had to follow him home within 10 seconds and he would be the winner.
Leclerc crossed the line 1.3 seconds ahead of Norman, but it was Pertamina Arden who were celebrating their first win in FIA Formula 2 once the penalty was applied to Leclerc - leading too jubilant scenes in the Arden garage and pitwall!
The FIA Formula 2 Championship next heads to the Red Bull Ring, Austria on the 7-9 July for round 5 of the championship. The aim is that this maiden victory is the catalyst for a great second half of the season.
Norman Nato "I made a good start to pass third. Rowland tried to open the gap so I knew it was important to pass second and stay in the DRS of Rowland. I was catching up before I took the lead after his mechanical problem. I tried to push hard to open the gap. Once I opened the gap I've calm down to manage my tires in case of safety car. Leclerc was faster than us and i knew he got a 10 second penalty, so I decided to bring the car back home.
It's a strong weekend after the difficulty we had to set up the car on Friday. We debrief all together to understand the problem and make a step forward. The team reacted well on the car set up. We keep working hard to improve and get this kind of result. "