F2

Soucek wins Oschersleben race one as rivals crash out

Soucek wins Oschersleben race one as rivals crash out

Andy Soucek strolled to a comfortable Saturday afternoon victory in today's Formula Two race at Oschersleben, the first of two races this weekend, as his rivals took each other out of the race early on. With his fourth victory of the season, the...

Andy Soucek strolled to a comfortable Saturday afternoon victory in today's Formula Two race at Oschersleben, the first of two races this weekend, as his rivals took each other out of the race early on. With his fourth victory of the season, the young Spaniard is now close to clinching the inaugural championship for the revived F2 series.

Andy Soucek.
Photo by FIA Formula Two Championship.

"It always looks easy but it never is," Soucek said. "I got a very good start, quite similar to the one I got at Donington. Through the race I was just focusing on not making any mistakes, but I was really pushing hard -- I got the fastest lap by far."

Starting from the pole position, Soucek took the first corner cleanly as the lights went out, but fireworks followed behind him. While quick-starting Robert Wickens decided to cede second place to Mirko Bortolotti -- who had started in second -- but the Canadian hadn't counted on Tobias Hegewald trying a banzai move on the inside. Hegewald attempted to push through where there was no space on the track, and tapped Wickens into a spin and off the track. Hegewald then took out the fourth-starting Julien Jousse by puncturing the Frenchman's rear tire, creating the start of a NASCAR-worthy melee.

As the safety car was deployed to allow the marshals to clear the carnage, the DNF count rose as fast as a geiger counter inside a uranium mine. Apart from Hegewald and Jousse, Jens Hoing, Milos Pavlovic and Philipp Eng were out of the race. Wickens, Jolyon Palmer and Jason Moore had to rejoin the race at the back of the field, while Mikhail Aleshin could count himself lucky: after making contact with Carlos Iaconelli's wheels, he was thrown into the air, but landed on his wheels without making contact with either other cars or the barriers.

Once the safety car pulled in, only Bortolotti was able to keep Soucek within any kind of range, finishing the race 6.466 seconds behind Soucek.

"I have to be happy with second," said the Italian. "Of course I would like to be quicker and be able to fight for victory, but the positions are good at the moment."

Kazim Vasiliauskas had a similarly lonely race after the opening-lap crash to finish in third place, 11.169 seconds off the pace of Soucek, and some 4.7 seconds adrift of Bortolotti.

"I'm improving every weekend," Vasiliauskas said. "The gap between myself and the leaders is getting smaller. I'm getting consistent and not making so many mistakes like in the beginning of the season."

While Wickens was able to fight his way back up to eighth place to score a singular championship point, it made little difference to the title fight with Soucek's full haul of ten points. As Jousse failed to finish, Soucek is now reaping the benefits of his consistency: he has finished in the top four all but two of the eleven races so far, and holds a 31-point lead over Wickens. Were he to win Sunday's race as well, with Wickens held to a single point again (and Bortolotti finishing seventh or worse), he would clinch the F2 title with four races yet to run.

The starting grid for the second race certainly does not rule out that result. While Mikhail Aleshin scored the pole position with a stunning 0.6-second margin over the rest of the field in today's second qualifying session, the young Russian ace has to thank his team for perfectly timing his lap on a drying track for the flying lap -- and Natacha Gachnang for halting the session two minutes early while he was atop the time sheets. Gachnang's spin at turn six brought out the red flags, and there was not enough time remaining to restart the session.

Jousse, then, claimed the second starting position, with Soucek a mere 14 thousandths further back in third. Bortolotti and Wickens fill the fourth and fifth places, and the two Red Bull drivers will be competing as much for the second place in the title fight as they will be trying to keep the championship away from Soucek.

Soucek's reflections after the qualifying summed things up well: "Third is still okay; I could have ended 18th or 20th just because of the rain, so I'm happy to be on the front. I think I just have to be intelligent and do a clever race. The championship is still open but I just have to keep my head down -- I'm happy to have Mikhail on pole rather than Julien or Robert!"

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Series F2
Drivers Natacha Gachnang , Robert Wickens , Milos Pavlovic , Julien Jousse , Mikhail Aleshin , Carlos Iaconelli , Tobias Hegewald , Andy Soucek , Jens Hoing , Philipp Eng , Jason Moore , Kazim Vasiliauskas , Jolyon Palmer