Benjamin Bailly took his first career FIA Formula Two victory today in front of his home-town fans. The maiden victory was all the sweeter for Bailly, who lives in Liege, Belgium, as he did it at Circuit Zolder, only an hour from his hometown.
"This is a really good feeling, fantastic in front of all my family and everybody who did a really good job," Bailly smiled. "This makes me really happy and gives me more confidence for the rest of the season. I hope it's not the last one - I will do everything I can to remain at the front and why not more victories."
Bailly made a swift getaway from the pole position, and was never seriously threatened. As the chequered flag was shown after 22 laps of racing, the young Belgian was 3.819 seconds clear of the field.
"I just tried to keep the gap and finish first - that's what I did," Bailly explained. "I pushed as hard as I could in the first laps and kept my boosts until the end of the race in case there was a safety car."
There was no safety car this time, though, and the challengers were kept too busy squabbling amongst themselves to be able to threaten Bailly. Behind Bailly, it was Jack Clarke on the first row, and then Jolyon Palmer and Will Bratt on the second row.
Palmer, the championship leader, got the jump on Clarke at the start, and was in second place going into the first corner. Clarke and Bratt followed, but were soon to be chased by Dean Stoneman, the winner of the weekend's first race, who had quickly worked his way up from seventh on the grid to fifth. On lap six, Stoneman made it fourth, as he slipped past Bratt.
Clarke was not such an easy target for Stoneman, though, and Clarke pursued Palmer while Stoneman tried to make up the gap to the other two. Eventually it was Stoneman that made up the ground more effectively, and attacked Clarke with ferocity, eventually made a pass stick in Turn Three with just two laps remaining.
It was not enough time for Stoneman to make up the gap to Palmer, who finished a second clear of his fellow Briton. Clarke and Bratt claimed fourth and fifth, 6.6 and 7.2 seconds behind Bailly, respectively.
Mihai Marinescu inherited a lonely sixth place when Nicola de Marco's car suffered a mechanical problem on lap 14. Kazim Vasiliauskas finished seventh, and Ivan Samarin held off Sergei Afanasiev attack on the final lap. Afanasiev's attack was of the all-or-nothing variety, and the "nothing" part turned out to be a spin, which dropped the Russian down to 15th place.
With Palmer and Stoneman finishing second and third, there were no major changes to the championship chase. Palmer still leads, now with 139 points, ahead of Stoneman's 131. Philipp Eng, who wrapped up another disastrous weekend with a 12th place, is still third but far back with 80 points. Bratt (70 points) and Vasiliauskas (65) complete the top six in the point standings.
The next race will be in two weeks' time in Algarve, Portugal.