Callum Ilott took his first Formula 2 victory at the Red Bull Ring feature race, after his teammate Guanyu Zhou dropped out of the lead with technical problems.
Ilott and polesitter Zhou dominated the early stages of the race together with Prema’s Mick Schumacher, who leapt up into third place at the start after passing star of qualifying Felipe Drugovich.
The two UNI-Virtuosi drivers traded the lead throughout the first corners of the race, before Zhou managed to make a move stick and set about breaking the DRS range back to Ilott. But Zhou lost the position again after his pit stop, when Ilott and then Schumacher were able to perform the undercut and emerge in the net lead of the race.
With more heat in his tyres, Zhou managed to repass Ilott and Schumacher on their out laps, while Ilott overhauled Schumacher to resume net second behind Zhou.
But on lap 26 Zhou slowed with a sudden loss of power and dropped down the order. Ilott resumed the lead ahead of Schumacher, with ART’s Marcus Armstrong, who had climbed through the field on the alternate strategy, assuming third place.
While Zhou returned to the pits there were problems too for HWA’s Artem Markelov, who came to a halt on the circuit and brought out the safety car for two laps.
Ilott held the lead at the safety car restart, and was gifted a reprieve when Schumacher ran off the circuit and through the gravel trap, dropping down to P13.
With Schumacher out of contention as well, Ilott held several seconds in hand over second-placed Armstrong, with Robert Shwartzman promoted to third. This gap only increased as Armstrong and Shwartzman battled hard over the podium positions, allowing Ilott to go from 4.8s ahead on lap 36 to more than 8s by the chequered flag.
Despite having an apparent pace advantage, Shwartzman was unable to get past Armstrong and finished in third behind the ART. Armstrong’s teammate Christian Lundgaard finished fourth after seeing off a late challenge from Dan Ticktum, while Giuliano Alesi made the alternate strategy work to take sixth from 18th on the grid.
Louis Deletraz took seventh for Charouz and Drugovich held on to eighth place to take reverse grid pole for tomorrow on his F2 debut. Nobuharu Matsushita, another alternate strategy runner, finished in ninth and Roy Nissany took the final point in tenth.
Along with Markelov, Sean Gelael and Marino Sato also retired from the race, while Luca Ghiotto failed to start because of a technical problem. Schumacher eventually finished just outside the points in P11, while Zhou finished down in P17.