If fortune favours the brave, Jolyon Palmer showed his courage with a gamble on tyres which paid off handsomely: the Briton made a great start and stayed out on medium tyres while those ahead of him had to stop early, before driving a clean, aggressive second half of the race to claim victory in today’s feature race in Budapest ahead of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr.
Tom Dillmann made a terrible start from pole to hand the lead to Nasr when the lights went out, with Fabio Leimer following the Brazilian through ahead of Ericsson and teammate Stéphane Richelmi, but Palmer had a better run and snuck past the DAMS pair for P3 on the road from P7 on the grid. The Swede had other ideas, however, and took advantage of a tow along the front straight to pop inside Palmer and through at turn one on lap two: the pair had a ferocious battle for the podium position for lap after lap, with Ericsson under extreme pressure until he stopped on lap 7 after struggling on his softs for long enough.
The change worked, and when Nasr and Leimer covered his stop two laps later the damage was done and they were behind the Swede, who had put himself into pole position for the victory. Palmer, now in the lead of the race, had other ideas, and was able to run quicker laps in clear air: the question was whether the gap over Ericsson was big enough. The answer came on lap 17 when Palmer came in for 4 more mediums, emerging side by side with Ericsson before the Swede snuck through into the virtual lead to recommence the war: the pair had another epic battle as Palmer pushed everywhere, taking the position a few times but running out of track, but eventually claimed the position after running side by side for the first 3 turns before Ericsson had to cede.
The fight clearly took its toll on the Swede’s tyres, and as the race rolled on Nasr started to push hard to complete a Carlin 1-2: with Palmer easing away to win by 15 seconds, Ericsson ran as wide as he could on the last lap to hang on to second ahead of a disappointed Nasr, with Leimer holding off Richelmi at the line for P4. Simon Trummer took advantage of a very long first stint for sixth just ahead of Mitch Evans, Nathanael Berthon was out alone for P8 and tomorrow’s pole, with James Calado mugging Sam Bird at the end of the race for an extra point.
Stefano Coletti was unable to repeat his Nurburgring heroics after a collision at the start meant an extra stop, but the Monegasque driver holds on to his lead in the championship from Nasr by 135 points to 123, with Leimer on 100 points, Bird on 91, and Calado on 86 points ahead of tomorrow’s sprint race.