Lando Norris will start the European segment of this year’s FIA Formula 2 Championship in Spain next month at the head of the standings after an incident-packed Feature Race in which the British teenager impressively battled back to sixth place following a pit-lane start before recording a fighting fifth in today’s Sprint Race on his Baku début in Azerbaijan this weekend (28-29 Apr).
Norris qualified second fastest for yesterday’s 29-lap 108-mile race, denied a second consecutive Feature Race pole-position by 0.214secs in the closing moments of Friday afternoon’s twice red-flagged time trials. But his Dallara stalled as the cars left the grid for the final installation lap resulting in a pit-lane start from the back of the 20-car field although Norris was up to 13th place prior to a Safety Car period on the second lap. Lando pitted after six laps, having made up another place, before making his compulsory pit-stop for tyres. With 10-laps remaining, Lando had superbly battled his way into eighth place prior to another Safety Car. He moved up another two places and took the chequered flag sixth – 7.6secs behind the winner – having spent the closing laps fighting for fourth.
Lando began today’s 78-mile Sprint Race from third place on the “reverse” grid, with a six-point series lead, Carlin having made changes overnight to improve the Dallara’s balance which Norris felt had restricted his outright pace the previous day. Delayed by the stalled pole-sitter directly ahead, Norris completed lap one fourth. He moved up a place on the fourth lap, then briefly had second on lap nine exiting Turn 1. Challenging for second place again one lap later, Lando was three abreast on the outside heading into the same corner but had to back out. He went wide, quickly turned around and resumed seventh. He had made up two places by lap 12, ultimately finishing at the back of a three-car dice for third in fifth after 21 hectic laps staged in blustery conditions.
Following today’s FIA Formula 2 Championship Sprint Race at Baku, Azerbaijan, it was found that car #18 had stopped on track as a result of having insufficient fuel to return to the pits. The Stewards have determined that the Carlin team failed to ensure that the minimum required 0.8kg sample of fuel could be taken from the car in the post-race technical checks.
As a consequence, Sergio Sette Camara has been disqualified from the sprint race results following the breach of the Technical Regulations, and hence promotes Nyck de Vries to second position and Nicholas Latifi to third, with everyone else also moving up one position. Ralph Boschung will henceforth receive the final allocated point.
Norris now leads the Drivers’ Championship with 55 points, 14 points ahead of second-placed Alexander Albon while Sette Camara drops to third. Carlin retain their lead of the Teams’ Championship with 95 points, while DAMS are second with 61. ART Grand Prix remain third with 47 points.
The 3.73-mile Baku City circuit, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, was the second-longest track on the F2 calendar – just over half a mile shorter than Spa-Francorchamps, the Belgium circuit the series visits in August. The track, that is unusually run in an anti-clockwise direction, is used just once a year and features many contrasts. It includes the longest straight on the F2 calendar, at 1.305-miles the pit-straight produces the highest top speeds of the year (almost 200mph). Meanwhile the left-right flicks alongside the medieval wall of Baku’s Old Town is the narrowest section of the track at just 25ft and down to just 50mph. Baku marked the fifth “street” track Lando has raced on after Monaco (Formula Renault, 2016) plus Macau (2016/17) Pau and the Norisring (both 2017) all in F3. It is worth noting that at all four venues, Norris had either set “pole” or front row times in qualifying and went on to score at least a podium, or a victory, apart from in Monaco. The next F2 races are staged at the Circuit de Barcelona in Spain (12-13 May).