FIA Formula 2 returned from the annual summer break to the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Belgium. The longest circuit on the calendar played host to extremely difficult conditions in Timed Qualifying – where a late rain shower soaked the track ahead of the FIA F2 Qualifying session.
With the track being 7.004km long, different parts of the circuit were affected differently by the weather than others – this unpredictability played havoc with many driver’s setups and run plans. Pertamina Arden drivers Norman Nato and Sean Gelael were unable to get a clean lap in during the wet session.
This combined with getting the temperamental wet tyres into the correct operating window for the all-important middle sector meant that Nato and Gelael ended up 18th and 19th respectively -leaving them with plenty of work to do in the Feature Race.
The Feature Race took place in now dry conditions, with both drivers making good starts to immediately move up the field and start making strong progress. As the drivers made their way through the opening lap, Nato had moved up to 14th position and Gelael up to 17th as they made use of the strong slipstream effect in sectors 1 and 3.
In a race which featured quite low attrition, Nato managed to continue working his way through the pack, using the DRS efficiently to make up ground and into the top ten after the pitstops. Gelael was setting a strong pace in pursuit as well, however his progress was blunted by a collision that demoted him to the back of the field, leading to quite a lonely end to the race.
In the closing stages, Nato managed to break into the top ten – earning himself a championship point in the process. Teammate Gelael came home in 18th position.
Post-race however, championship contenders Oliver Rowland as well as race winner Charles Leclerc, were excluded from the results due too excessive wear on the skid plank that each FIA F2 car is required to run. This promoted Nato to 8th position – earning him reverse grid pole position in the process for the Sprint Race on Sunday morning.
Nato made a solid start from pole position, however the rapid starting MP Motorsport of Sergio Sete Camara blasted past into the lead as the pack approached La Source for the first time. Nato was then powerless to stop Nyck de Vries from outdragging him down the Kemmel Straight, dropping him to 3rd position.
The race focussed around the progress being made by Leclerc and Rowland starting from the rear of the field. Gelael attempted to follow the two championship contenders through, moving himself up the order in the process.
As the race continued, Nato set into a solid pace to maintain 3rd position – as tyre management began to play a key part in the race, with all drivers on the mandatory medium Pirelli compounds for the
Nato managed to hold on until the race reached four laps to go, where he came under pressure from the Russian Time driver Luca Ghiotto, who seemingly had tyres in better condition. Nato defended strong and well for two laps – before Ghiotto managed to sweep past to steal the final spot on the podium.
One lap later, the race was under safety car conditions after a huge crash at Radillon for ART Driver Nobuhara Matsushita. The race finished under safety car, meaning Nato was classified 4th at the chequered flag. Gelael crossed the line in 17th position after a challenging weekend.
The FIA Formula 2 Championship will be in action once again for back-to-back races on the 2-3 September at Monza, Italy for round 9 of the championship.
As always, all FIA Formula 2 and GP3 Series races and qualifying sessions will be live on Sky Sports F1 HD, where you can catch the Arden Motorsport and Pertamina Arden drivers in action – as a feeder series to the Formula One World Championship.