BWT Arden headed into the final race weekend of the season, with the FIA F3 Macau Grand Prix winner and Red Bull Junior Daniel Ticktum, joining as a new driver.
Ticktum had never driven or tested in the simulator for the F2, so his first taste came in the Free Practice session on Friday morning.
Heading under the lights in the evening, qualifying took place on the Super Soft tyres – leading to a unique session like in the season opener at Bahrain.
In a tricky session, Ticktum managed to secure a very solid 14th quickest time on debut – less than half a second off 6th quickest on the timesheets, with Fukuzumi qualifying in 19th position where traffic played a part.
The start of the 31-lap Feature Race was a dramatic affair, as both DAMS drivers and the Carlin of Sergio Sette Camara all stalled on the grid. Ticktum managed to just take avoiding action of the striken DAMS, but Fukuzumi was less lucky – as in the melee, he was hit from behind, causing damage that resulted in him retiring from the race at Turn 1.
A lengthy 6-lap Safety Car neutralised the field, before restarting on Lap 7. Ticktum had continued to gain ground in a strong opening stint, moving himself up to 10th position and in the points on debut!
This then became 9th during the pit-stop phase, where he successfully completed his first ever in-race pitstop in FIA F2.
The race was then all about tyre management and combining it with race pace. Ticktum was battling for points throughout the remainder of the race. The turning point for Ticktum was when he ended up bottled up behind a train of two cars nursing their tyres, both getting the benefit of DRS – which caused damage to Ticktum’s tyres and he had to manage them to the end.
The Red Bull Junior only just missed out on points, finishing a very strong 11th on an impressive debut.
In the Sprint Race, Ticktum made a decent start from 11th position and Fukuzumi managed to gain a couple of positions in the opening laps from his 19th placed starting berth.
With the race now in the heat of day, tyre management would be even more critical than yesterday’s evening race. However, Ticktum suffered an internal transmission damage on Lap 3 of the race. Despite the best efforts of the team in the pitlane, he was unable to re-join the race.
This left Fukuzumi the sole remaining BWT Arden in the race, as the Honda Junior continued to make good progress in the race, running his race well to protect his tyres as the laps counted on.
Half-way through the race, the DRS detection stopped working – making it very difficult for driver’s to make further progress through the grid, which thwarted Fukuzumi’s attempts to move further up the pecking order. Nevertheless, he put in a solid performance to keep his tyres alive to the end of the race, crossing the line in 12th position – gaining 7 positions in the final race of the season.
The first season of FIA Formula 2 with the new car is now complete. BWT Arden will remain in Abu Dhabi for the next week, competing in the Post-Abu Dhabi Formula 2 testing.
The line-up for the test is due to be confirmed soon, as well as the future plans for the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship.