F2

Soucek clinches title as Vasiliauskas wins

Kazim Vasiliauskas survived a first-lap scare to take his first Formula Two victory at Imola today, but the big story of the day was Andy Soucek clinching the championship with three races still to run. After scoring a dominant pole position ...

Kazim Vasiliauskas survived a first-lap scare to take his first Formula Two victory at Imola today, but the big story of the day was Andy Soucek clinching the championship with three races still to run.

After scoring a dominant pole position yesterday, Vasiliauskas got a good start as the lights went out and easily won the race to the first corner. For a moment it looked like the pressure might have been too much for the young Latvian, as he ran wide and onto the gravel on the approach to Tamburello on that first lap, but Vasiliauskas regained control and held onto the lead in spite of heavy pressure from Mirko Bortolotti.

The fight didn't last long, though, as a melee in the midfield sent out the safety car: Julien Jousse, Tobias Hegewald and Nicola De Marco found that the track wasn;t wide enough at Tamburello for all three of them, and contact proved terminal for two of the three. De Marco ran into the armco, and, more spectacularly, Hegewald was sent into a barrel roll in the air. Both drivers were uninjured.

Jousse got off with the least damage, and was able to continue after an unplanned stop in the pits.

Once the the safety car pulled into the pits, Vasiliauskas had to hold off the charging Bortolotti again, while the Italian in turn had to fend off fourth-place starter Robert Wickens and sixth-place man Soucek, who had made his way past Philipp Eng and Mikhail Aleshin at the start.

However, Vasiliauskas calmed down and got his race pace up, showing the pace that gave him the pole position. By the time the chequered flag was shown, the Lithuanian was over seven seconds ahead of Bortolotti.

"I am really proud of this win," said Vasiliauskas. "It was a really good race, and I finished with a seven second gap as I was able to maintain my times throughout the race - in fact my last lap was the fastest of the race. It was a really good race, and I kept pushing right until the end."

Bortolotti managed to hold on to second place if not Vasiliauskas' rear wing, but Soucek pulled off stunning pass on Wickens on the back straight to take third place with yet another podium position.

Aleshin, who was the only other driver besides Soucek and Wickens to have a mathematical chance at the title, had a poor start from third place on the grid, falling back to sixth, and a spin later in the race put paid to his hopes. Soucek only had to finish in front of Aleshin and Wickens to guarantee the title, but with the podium finish he did it in style as well.

"I'm really, really happy," Soucek beamed. "I wanted to win the championship with a podium at least, so I'm thrilled to have finished third. I was starting sixth which was not the best position, but I made my places off the track - it was not people having problems. It was an amazing race, possibly the best of my season so far."

For Bortolotti, the second-place finish gives him an opportunity to fight for the runner-up position in the championship. He is now at 47 points, three and two points behind his two Red Bull teammates, Wickens and Aleshin.

"I had a good start today, although I had to avoid Kazim as he came back onto the circuit, which was quite dangerous," Bortolotti recalled. "After that he closed the door a few times, so it was hard to get past. In the end second position and eight points is good, and now we are looking forward to tomorrow."

Philipp Eng claimed fifth place, followed by Milos Pavlovic.

The grid for tomorrow's second race will be set in the second qualifying session, unusually run on Sunday morning.

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Series F2
Drivers Robert Wickens , Milos Pavlovic , Julien Jousse , Mikhail Aleshin , Tobias Hegewald , Andy Soucek , Philipp Eng , Kazim Vasiliauskas