Tobias Hegewald continued his domination of the FIA Formula Two race weekend at Spa-Francorchamps with ease, clinching not only his second pole position of the weekend, but also his first F2 victory in the first of two races this...
Tobias Hegewald continued his domination of the FIA Formula Two race weekend at Spa-Francorchamps with ease, clinching not only his second pole position of the weekend, but also his first F2 victory in the first of two races this weekend.
Hegewald had been the fastest driver in each of the two practice sessions on Friday, as well as in the first qualifying round, and he continued his march at the top, embellishing his race victory with the fastest lap as well.
"I'm hoping for more of the same tomorrow," said the young German. "My first two (F2) weekends unfortunately weren't so good, but hopefully now I am running better and I have put myself into championship contention. I was under a bit of pressure from Andy (Soucek) but I managed to get a gap and relax towards the end."
Soucek, who had started next to Hegewald on the front row, was the only real challenger, as the race ended quickly for third-place man Robert Wickens, who stalled at the start, triggering a two-lap safety car period. Alas, Soucek's challenge, promising as it was initially, did not last long as he simply could not match Hegewald's pace, and he crossed the line 4.149 seconds behind the winner.
"I tried to overtake Tobias in the early laps, at the start and after the Safety Car, but I saw he was too quick and I couldn't match his rhythm," Soucek recalled. "I had a few big moments, including going across the grass at the chicane, so I decided to settle for second and with it the championship lead."
That "moment" across the chicane was enough to deny Soucek the lead, though, as the stewards assessed him a 10-second penalty for hindering another driver, namely Julian Jousse.
Jousse, fourth in the championship fight and fourth on the grid, had an opportunity to move into a podium position and up in the standings. However, Soucek's mistake soon after the safety car pulled in cost him the podium. As the Spaniard completed his agricultural expedition at Les Combes, he returned to the circuit right in front of Jousse, opening the door to Milos Pavlovic.
"I have to apologise to Julien because he had to avoid me when I went over the grass and he ended up losing third to Milos," Soucek said. "I'm happy with my race and the result, but I do have to apologise for this move."
Pavlovic, who had moved up from seventh on the grid, firmly grasped the opportunity, though, and quickly disposed of the gift-wrapping. While Jousse pursued the Serbian with vigour throughout the rest of the race, he wasn't able to convince him to partake in a gift-exchange program. At the finish, the gap between the two was 0.723 seconds, with Pavlovic 3.747 seconds adrift of Soucek.
"Maybe I was fortunate to get past Julien in the way I did, but I took my chances and the race went well," Pavlovic reflected after the race. "I got a really good start and was alongside Julien going into the first corner, and after I got by him I couldn't catch Andy so I just guided it home to third. I know I have to improve my feel for the car, but after this result I'm confident I can get there."
In the end, though, Soucek's apology was judged not to be sufficient, and the extra 10 seconds that he was assigned dropped the young Spaniard from second to fourth, elevating Pavlovic and Jousse into second and third, respectively.
For Wickens, the winner of both pole positions and races at the season opener in Valencia, it was another race to forget. The Canadian's clutch broke at the start, and as he his car ground to a halt and the field streamed around him, Jason Moore failed to see him, and collided heavily into Wickens' Red Bull-emblazoned machine. The safety car came out as the marshals moved the stricken cars and cleaned up the debris, accounting for two of the eleven race laps.
With Red Bull teammates and championship front-runners Mirko Bortolotti, Wickens and Robert Aleshin all out of the points -- Bortolotti and Aleshin finished ninth and 18th, respectively -- the championship battle is as tight as ever. Jousse now leads with 22 points, but Bortolotti, Soucek and Wickens are all within two points.
And that sets the stage for tomorrow's second race at the classic circuit. Hegewald is on the pole again, but with Wickens now on the front row, having qualified 0.165 seconds adrift of his German rival. While Wickens will be counting on a new clutch working better, Soucek will be right behind the two, with a qualifying time just 0.033 seconds slower than that of Wickens.
And their championship rivals are closer to the front of the grid as well: while Jousse is one position further back, behind Alex Brundle, Aleshin and Bortolotti are starting from the fourth row of the grid, and will be looking to score points this time.
The lights will go green for the second race amid the Ardennes forests at 3:15 PM local time tomorrow.