Prema’s Frederik Vesti battled to the lead to win the Formula 2 Feature Race in Jeddah as fellow front-runners Victor Martins and Ollie Bearman spun from the podium positions in separate incidents.
The Mercedes junior driver maintained strong pace even as the lights went out, jumping both Ayumu Iwasa and Jehan Daruvala. On lap 17 of 28 pole-sitter Martins lost the net race lead and with Vesti already close behind it allowed him to glide into the lead.
Virtuosi’s Jack Doohan couldn’t match the pace of Vesti, but comfortably finished the race in 2nd followed by MP Motorsport’s Daruvala, who claimed the final podium position.
Bearman also had a strong start off the line, jumping pole-sitter Martins as he struggled to gain traction. The ART GP driver didn’t allow Bearman to pull out a gap though, and stuck to the rear wing of the Prema.
Meanwhile, in the midfield, those on the alternate strategy, starting on the medium compound tyre, were predictably engulfed by those who had started on the super-soft tyre.
Van Amersfoort’s Juan Manuel Correa had also fallen four positions to P16 on lap 2 of 28 as he struggled to make progress in the midfield.
A Virtual Safety Car neutralised the race when Amaury Cordeel (who later received a 10-second time penalty) collided with Brad Benavides, leaving Benavides out of the race.
Bearman maximised getting back up to speed as the VSC ended, stretching a gap of over 1.8s to Martins behind. This was while Martins held off pressure from fellow Alpine Academy driver Doohan.
Before five laps had passed, those with the instant grip on the super-soft tyre were starting to see it lose its advantage over the medium-compound tyre.
Lap 7 triggered a string of mandatory pit stops for those on the super-soft tyre. Crucially, Vesti gained an on-track position, getting out ahead of Doohan.
One lap later, it was the turn of the front runners Bearman and Martins to pit. A slow stop for Martins allowed Bearman to clinch track position in the pit lane as those on the alternative strategy continued on track on the medium tyre.
The battle for the lead was still alive though, Bearman and Martins scrapped through the twists of the circuit with Martins taking the lead after going off the track and wheel to wheel contact before Bearman reclaimed the net-lead.
The battle was allowing Vesti to close up to Bearman and on the next lap Martins attempted the pass again and appeared to easily sweep by on the pit straight. But Bearman, braking late, meant that Martins couldn’t complete the pass until the pair were out of Turn 1.
Vesti now within touching distance of Prema teammate Bearman, was able to take advantage of the battle and followed Martins in passing Bearman.
By lap 16, Vesti was looming large in Martins’ mirrors as the pair approached back markers.
But there was drama as, Bearman spun, falling to P11, leaving him out of the fight for the podium positions.
A lap later Martins lost control from the lead allowing Vesti to pass. He spun his rear into the wall, and despite being able to keep the engine running the ART GP driver retired from the race, bringing out the VSC.
Vesti maintained the lead in the final ten laps, with net-second placed Doohan over 5 seconds behind as the last of those on the alternate strategy pitted. Arthur Leclerc charged into the points following his pit stop with Bearman over 2 seconds ahead.
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