Vesti wins F2 Feature as Martins crashes out of lead
By Mat Coch
Monday 20th March, 2023 - 1:11am
Frederik Vesti has claimed victory in the Formula 2 Feature race in Saudi Arabia with Jack Doohan second.
Though he boasted impressive pace in the early stages, Vesti inherited the win when Victor Martins spun out of the effective lead midway through the race.
It came quickly after a spin for early leader Ollie Bearman, who sat third at the time, to promote Doohan from fourth to second in quick order.
A strong start from Doohan saw him look to split the front row but had nowhere to go as Martins covered the Australian on the run to Turn 1.
Bearman got the jump and headed the field from Martins and Doohan, with Vesti slotting into fourth.
The Virtual Safety Car was deployed at the start of Lap 2 when Brad Benavides stopped in the opening sector.
Running last, he was squeezed on approach to Turn 1 by Amaury Cordeel, damaging Benavides’ front suspension to eliminate him.
The Virtual Safety Car was withdrawn as the field trundled down the front straight, Bearman extending the lead as Martins struggled to get back up to speed.
That saw Doohan menace the back of his fellow Alpine Academy driver but unable to find a way through.
Martins was again forced to defend as they began Lap 4, the Frenchman a cork in the bottle for Doohan and Vesti in fourth.
The gap between second and third began to extend before Doohan took to the lane at the end of Lap 6.
Vesti, who had set the fastest lap of the race a lap prior, pitted as the same time but emerged ahead of the Australian.
Next time around, the leaders stopped with Bearman holding his advantage over Martins.
They maintained track position over Vesti and Doohan as the spread from fourth to first increased through the pit cycle.
On Lap 10, Martins attacked Bearman into Turn 1.
He seized the place but had to leave the race track to do so and was soon after forced to cede back the spot to his British rival.
Martins had looked to go around the outside at Turn 1 but had the door closed by Bearman.
Next time by, a better run through the final corner saw Martins complete the move with ease.
Bearman fought back, going side by side around Turn 2 only to lose grip and drop a place to Vesti who had closed up as the pair ahead squabbled.
The former race leader fell back from the pair ahead as the race settled down briefly through the middle phase of the 28-lapper.
Ahead, those who’d started on the medium tyres continued to circulate in the hope of a late Safety Car, which would strategically play to their favour.
Martins was the first on track to have stopped, holding the effective lead despite running sixth.
Drama soon followed as Bearman spun at Turn 22 on Lap 16 before Martins dropped it at Turn 4, lightly tagging the barrier with the rear wing.
Able to get the car moving he then lost the engine as he tried to rejoin, forcing him into retirement.
The Virtual Safety Car was called for as Vesti took the effective lead from Doohan, behind five cars ahead still sporting the soft compound tyres.
With four laps remaining, the field had been fully washed in terms of pit stops, leaving Vesti 5.6s clear of Doohan in the race lead.
Jehan Daruvala sat third, just over two seconds back from Doohan and Sprint race winner Ayumu Iwasa fourth.
That was the way it ended, the final margin 3.9s from Vesti to Doohan with Daruvala 3.5s further back to complete the podium.
The championship leader heading into the weekend, Theo Pourchaire had a largely anonymous drive to finish 12th.
Formula 2 heads next to Melbourne for the first time in its history to headline support act for the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.
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