Vesti supreme in wet Formula 2 Spanish Sprint
By Mat Coch
Saturday 3rd June, 2023 - 11:16pm
Frederik Vesti won the Formula 2 Sprint race in Spain after racing his way to the front in the opening laps.
Held in wet conditions, the Mercedes junior quickly found his way by pole-sitter Amaury Cordeel, opening a comfortable margin and controlling the race to the finish.
He headed Theo Pourchaire to the flag as Victory Martins in the final podium position.
The conditions saw a rolling start, Amaury Cordeel heading the field while Vesti and Jak Crawford went wheel to wheel into the opening corner.
A strong start saw Jack Doohan climb from eighth at the start to fifth by the end of the opening lap.
He’d gained pre-race courtesy of a grid penalty for Pourchaire, which dropped the Frenchman to ninth, promoting the Alpine Academy driver to seventh.
On Lap 2, Vesti found a way by Cordeel to take over the lead of the race, with Martins third from Hauger and Doohan, the Australian coming under the attentions of Pourchaire.
Struggling for grip, Cordeel quickly slipped behind Martins, the Frenchman moving up the inside under braking into Turn 1 as they started Lap 4.
Vesti had quickly pulled clear out front, opening a four-second margin to Martins while Cordeel fell away from the front of the race by more than two seconds a lap.
He held on to third, scarcely more than a second clear of Hauger, with Doohan a similar distance behind in fifth.
A mistake on Lap 10 saw Doohan slip behind Pourchaire, while a lap later Cordeel dropped nearly 10 seconds in the middle sector to plummet to sixth.
Midway through the 26-lap affair, conditions began to improve; the rain had stopped and in places a dry line began to appear.
That prompted drivers to start moving off line down the straights in an effort to cool their tyres, conditions still not ready for the switch to slicks.
Running 14th, Jehan Daruvala was the first to gamble on switching to slick rubber, followed by Kush Maini and Zane Maloney.
Maini promptly had a wild slide as he rounded Turn 3 as he struggled for grip on the cold tyres.
The dry tyres took a lap to come in, but once up to temperature proved to be the fastest tyre by some time.
Pourchaire made the call to dive into the lane when the Virtual Safety Car was deployed for Juan Manuel Correa – who had stopped for slicks a lap after Daruvala – who spun off at Turn 1.
Soon after the Safety Car was deployed.
With six laps remaining, the leader’s hands were forced. Vesti, Martin, Hauger, Doohan and the rest of the pack heading into the lane for slicks.
They had to – with the field condensed, they were exposed to those on slicks.
The order at the front didn’t change significantly despite the rapid-fire stops, and Pourchaire having dived in a lap earlier; Vesti continued to lead from Martins, Hauger, Pourchaire, and Doohan.
The Safety Car was withdrawn at the end of Lap 23, leaving three racing laps to the flag.
Vesti restarted proceedings as Pourchaire passed Hauger into Turn 1 at the restart.
The Sauber junior then pulled an audacious move around the outside of Martin at Turn 4 to climb to second.
Vesti was just out of range, the Prema driving holding on to win from Pourchaire.
In the closing two laps, Martins came under intense scrutiny from Hauger, allowing Doohan in with a sniff too in what turned into a three-way scrap for the final podium position.
It was Martins who hung on, Hauger 0.5s back at the line with Doohan only 0.4s behind him.