Frederik Vesti keeps Formula 2 title dreams alive with Sprint win

Frederik Vesti keeps Formula 2 title dreams alive with Sprint win


Frederik Vesti kept his 2023 Formula 2 title dreams alive, brilliantly winning the Sprint Race at Yas Marina for PREMA Team.


After dropping down to fourth, he fought his way back to wrestle the lead from Rodin Carlin’s Enzo Fittipaldi with two laps to go to secure his sixth victory of the campaign, taking the fastest lap point in the process. Richard Verschoor got the better of Isack Hadjar to complete the podium for Van Amersfoort Racing.


Championship judgement day will go down to the final race, as Théo Pourchaire made the most of a dramatic opening lap to secure crucial points in seventh.

Getting a better launch off the line, Vesti stole the inside line into Turn 1 and went side-by-side with Fittipaldi, though the Rodin Carlin driver emerged out of Turn 3 ahead. Into Turn 5, Fittipaldi went deep under braking, allowing the Dane to attempt a late lunge for the lead.


Capitalising on their duel, Hadjar and Verschoor made it four-wide down the back straight. Both managed to slip past either side of Vesti and demote the title contender to fourth. In contrast, Championship leader Pourchaire was already on the cusp of points, climbing up from 14th to ninth.


The Safety Car was deployed at the end of the opening lap after Juan Manuel Correa spun at Turn 3. Victor Martins found himself caught up in it, leaving him with nosecone damage and forcing him to pit for repairs.


Back to racing conditions on Lap 6, Fittipaldi aced his restart, immediately pulling half a second clear of Hadjar. Vesti wasted no time making up for lost ground, squeezing up alongside Verschoor down to Turn 6 to snatch third.


On the fringes of the points, Jack Doohan steadily made his way up from P10, swooping ahead of Ayumu Iwasa after the DAMS driver went wide out of Turn 9. Meanwhile, Pourchaire was trying to put together a charge of his own, going late on the brakes to wrestle eighth from Kush Maini and nosing his own way past Iwasa for P7.


Told to push for the fastest lap, Vesti began hunting down Hadjar and was on the Hitech Pulse-Eight driver’s tail by the time they reached Lap 10. Hadjar opted to go early on the defence but couldn’t stop the Mercedes junior’s charge, as Vesti took third around the outside of Turn 9.


Now with leader Fittipaldi in his sights, the PREMA driver quickly set about slicing down the 2.3s gap. Clocking two consecutive fastest laps on Laps 12 and 13, Vesti continued to find more pace on the medium tyres, going almost two tenths quicker each lap.

On Lap 13, Hadjar’s defence of third sent him deep into Turn 5, compromising his exit. This handed Verschoor an opportunity, getting a better run out of the corner to move up into third by the time they reached Turn 9.


Four laps later, Vesti loomed large in Fittipaldi’s mirrors and was eyeing up moves for the lead. A lock-up by the #4 Rodin Carlin handed Vesti a chance, but he too locked up through the Turn 5 hairpin. Fittipaldi tried to break the tow, but another mistake at the same corner three laps later was the moment for Vesti.


Benefitting from better grip, he dived up the inside of the Brazilian into Turn 6 to snatch the lead. Instantly breaking free of Fittipaldi behind, Vesti pulled out of the DRS window and reached the chequered flag a comfortable 3.8 seconds clear of the Red Bull junior.


Richard Verschoor finished third, whilst Hadjar’s valiant defence of fourth ended on the final lap. Relentlessly putting the pressure on the Frenchman, MP Motorsport’s Dennis Hauger managed to get the job done to take the five points on offer.


Doohan secured sixth ahead of Pourchaire and Iwasa rounded out the final points-paying position in eighth.


KEY QUOTE – Frederik Vesti, PREMA Racing

“We won the Sprint Race in Abu Dhabi and that was a part of the plan to this comeback of mine for the Championship. So, Saturday was a good day and I’m just really, really happy to take this win. I need 16 points tomorrow to be Champion and I’m absolutely going to go for it!”

THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

16 points now separate Théo Pourchaire and Frederik Vesti in the Drivers’ Championship, with 26 points still to play for in the Feature Race. The Frenchman moves up to 193 points and Vesti’s 11-point haul for victory and the fastest lap puts him on 177.

Ayumu Iwasa remains third, now on 153 and sits 10 points ahead of Jack Doohan. Victor Martins continues to round out the top five on 131, with Oliver Bearman a point behind in sixth.

ART Grand Prix’s advantage in the Teams’ Standings has been cut to 17 points, on 324 to PREMA Racing’s 307. Rodin Carlin remain third on 220 points.

UP NEXT

Both the Drivers’ and Teams’ Championships still hang in the balance, as Pourchaire and Vesti will each be vying to be crowned the 2023 FIA Formula 2 Champion. Jack Doohan will get the 14th and final Feature Race of the season underway from pole at 13:15 local time today


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