Alexander Albon stormed to a thrilling victory at the Sochi Autodrom, claiming a fourth win of the 2018 season and fronting a 1-2 finish for DAMS in what was a strategy-driven race in Russia.
In qualifying for Formula 2's penultimate Feature Race of the season, Albon secured fourth on the grid, starting alongside championship leader George Russell while Nyck de Vries and Lando Norris completed the front row of the field.
With the field operating a split strategy decision, Albon completed his opening stint on the Supersoft tyres, jumping into third place by the end of the first tour of the circuit after second-placed starter Norris suffered from a poor getaway in his Carlin machine.
Clearing ART Grand Prix's Russell on lap 5, Albon quickly secured second in the running order, however, soon dropped down to fourth, with Antonio Fuoco and Artem Markelov demonstrating supreme pace on the alternate strategy to clear the front-running Supersoft starters.
When Fuoco snatched the lead from de Vries at the start of lap 6, it was time for the Supersoft runners to pit, and the Dutchman quickly bolted on a set of Soft compound tyres in the pit lane.
A slow stop for de Vries allowed Albon to find time on his rival during the all-important tyre change, with the Thai driver passing the Prema in the pit lane to secure the net-lead of the race while pitting marked a disaster for Norris, with the Briton exiting his pit box with only three tyres attached to his car – a mistake that ultimately forced the driver to retire from the 28-lap affair.
Running out in front as the lead drivers on the alternate strategy, Markelov soon cleared Fuoco for first place and extended his advantage over the rest of the field, hoping to emulate the performance of his team-mate Tadasuke Makino at the Italian leg of the championship.
With Albon showing his pace on a new set of Softs, the Nissan e.dams-bound driver began to reduce Markelov's 23-second lead with the Russian racer still needing to pit in the race.
Contact between Arjun Maini and de Vries on lap 18 caused the yellow flags to start to wave at the start of sector three. Hopeful of a potential safety car, Markelov darted into the pits for fresh rubber, however, a slow, sloppy and disorganised pit stop from Russian Time meant that the driver rejoined the race in 11th.
Fuoco pitted soon after Markelov, surrendering his new-found lead to Albon who had now moved into first place by keeping within range of the alternate strategy runners.
On lap 28, Albon took the chequered flag, claiming another win for DAMS while Nicholas Latifi wrapped up a 1-2 finish for the French marque, clearing de Vries in the final stages of the race, with the Prema driver ultimately finishing in third place.
For Russell it was a podium-less race despite starting in third, crossing the line in fourth to secure a haul of 12 points while extending his lead over now second-placed man Albon, with 30 points separating the pair. A retirement for Norris means that the driver has dropped to third in the standings.
Sergio Sette Camara secured fifth place and was followed by Fuoco who filtered out in sixth place for Charouz Racing System. Alessio Lorandi took seventh for Trident while Formula 2 returnee Roberto Merhi secured reverse grid pole for Sunday's Sprint Race in eighth.
Nirei Fukuzumi and Makino finished in ninth and 10th while Sean Gelael, Luca Ghiotto and former Red Bull junior Niko Kari joined Norris in retirement.