After an uncharacteristically quiet weekend at Zolder two weeks ago, the FIA Formula Two championship leader Jolyon Palmer was in a familiar spot at the end of today's race one in Portimao: the top step of the podium. The young Englishman took his fourth victory in nine races by 2.626 seconds over Benjamin Bailly, the winner of the second race at Zolder.
For Palmer, it was not quite a Sunday afternoon drive, but as far as Formula Two races go, it was relatively static with not much overtaking, and, having started from pole position, Palmer was never seriously challenged throughout the race.
There was but a single safety car incident, with Plamen Kralev's spin bringing out the flashing lights on lap eight. However, Palmer handled the restart with ease, and from there controlled the race with Bailly playing the role of his trusted lieutenant.
Jack Clarke took his first-ever F2 podium position with a third place, having survived an attack by Kazim Vasiliauskas, Philipp Eng and Dean Stoneman. Clarke defended successfully against it, but it was Eng and Stoneman who got the worst of it. As the two were focused on Vasiliauskas and Clarke, Nicola de Marco executed a sneak attack to perfection, slipping by both Eng and Stoneman.
Worse, as the two rivals tried to recover, they touched wheels, dropping Stoneman back to 12th place. Stoneman was able to recover one position to 11th, but eventually gave that, too, up to Natalia Kowalska in the dying laps of the race.
Eng, meanwhile, managed to hang onto sixth place. A relief, surely, as the young Austrian scored his first points in five races, though not enough to move him back into championship contention.
It was Bailly, Clarke, Vasiliauskas and de Marco, then, following behind Palmer, separated by roughly two seconds each from each other. Eng was another three seconds behind de Marco, and Ricardo Teixeira and Armaan Ebrahim filled out the final top-eight spots.
The field will line up for the second race start at 1:15 PM Portuguese time.