Yuki Tsunoda clinched a dramatic F2 victory in controversial circumstances from Nikita Mazepin after a thrilling late race battle, in which the Russian was penalised despite taking victory on track.
Tsunoda dominated the opening stages but a slow pit stop on lap 11 allowed Mazepin through into what would eventually prove to be the lead and initial victory for the Russian.
Mazepin however found himself reeled in by Tsunoda as the pair found themselves engaged in a scrappy duel in the last seven laps, with Tsunoda getting close on lap 23 with an outside move into Les Combes but was forced wide by Mazepin who held the inside line.
Stewards adjudged Mazepin to had forced Tsunoda wide by not leaving enough racing space and served an instant five second time penalty, dropping him to second although he received a suspended five place grid penalty dangerous driving in parc ferme post race, whilst Hitech GP were reprimanded for unsafely releasing Mazepin from his pit stop.
Speaking post race on his second victory of the season, Tsunoda paid tribute to Anthoine Hubert, saying; “I am really happy to take P1 in the Feature Race. This is 100% for Anthoine Hubert.
“Like Hubert last year, he pushed every lap, every race, and I just drove like him. I maybe couldn’t win in the race but the final result is P1 and I am really happy with that.”
Mick Schumacher rounded out the podium ahead of Louis Deletraz, Robert Shwartzman, Dan Ticktum, Guanyu Zhou, Roy Nissany, Luca Ghiotto and Callum Ilott who complete the top ten.
In terms of the drivers’ championship, Ilott now leads Shwartzman by seven points with Tsunoda now up to third and 11 points off the Brit in third.
Felipe Drugovich was disqualified from the race result for making his mandatory pit stop on the last lap against FIA F2 rules.
Ahead of this race, the entire F2 and F1 grids united alongside Juan Manuel Correa and Nathalie Hubert-Gabert for an emotional minute silence in memory of Anthoine Hubert who tragically lost his life in an accident at this circuit one year ago.
Once racing commenced, Tsunoda got a clean getaway to lead from Nobuharu Matsushita who leapfrogged Mazepin up Eau Rouge for second to make it a Japanese one-two in the opening laps. Robert Shwartzman meanwhile got wide at La Source and lost three positions to slip to seventh but passed Zhou into the Bus Stop to reclaim sixth.
Matsushita’s soft tyres quickly degraded and he had slipped to fifth by lap four after getting passed by Deletraz into La Source then Shwartzman on the Kemmel Straight. Zhou meanwhile got past Drugovich round the outside of Bruxelles into Rivage then Matsushita into Stavelot to leave the two MP Motorsport drivers battling one another through Blanchimont.
Matsushita however got too close to Drugovich as he banged his right rear towards the Brazilian’s front wing to send the Japanese driver spinning out of the race whilst Drugovich battled to an eventual 20th placed finish after pitting for a new front wing.
Out in front, Tsunoda led Mazepin by nearly three seconds until the Russian pitted at the end of lap 9 which ultimately benefitted him in leapfrogging Tsunoda for the net lead on lap 11, due to an issue with Tsunoda’s stop which prevented him from clinging onto the net lead himself.
Zhou inherited control of the race until he stopped at the end of lap 16 for softs and re-joined in sixth but a mistake upon entry to Les Combes allowed Ghiotto, Ticktum and Pedro Piquet through.
Piquet then took Ghiotto into La Source a lap later but the Italian and Ticktum managed to get past the Brazilian with DRS on Kemmel Straight, with Ilott following through at the Bus Stop chicane at end of that lap.
Ticktum who had missed Practice after an inconclusive Coronavirus test soon clinched sixth from Ghiotto with a move into La Source, with Ghiotto then knocked further down the order a lap later when Zhou got past Ilott and him to move into seventh with five laps left.
Nissany however would pass Ilott into La Source on lap 22 then get Ghiotto on the Kemmel Straight a lap later to clinch eighth and reverse pole for the Sprint Race.
Up front, Tsunoda had recovered from his slow stop to reel Mazepin in with around 0.7s separating the pair during the last seven laps with Tsunoda repeatedly trying to pass Mazepin into Les Combes, only to be met every time with a robust defence from the Hitech Russian driver until lap 23 when he tried to pass round the outside in hope of claiming the inside line mid corner.
Mazepin however covered off the inside line which left Tsunoda with little option than to run wide over the kerbs although he continued to renew the battle throughout the final two laps, before stewards intervened post race with an immediate five second time penalty for Mazepin which gifted Tsunoda a controversial victory
Mazepin was left furious and upon his return to parc ferme he drove his car at speed into the number two bollard, sending it flying towards Tsunoda but landed just short of the Japanese protégé.
Feature Race Result
|1||Yuki Tsunoda||Carlin||25||53m 42.538|
|2||Nikita Mazepin||Hitech GP||25||+ 4.430|
|3||Mick Schumacher||Prema||25||+ 5.639|
|4||Louis Deletraz||Charouz||25||+ 10.381|
|5||Robert Shwartzman||Prema||25||+ 13.595|
|6||Dan Ticktum||DAMS||25||+ 16.218|
|7||Guanyu Zhou||UNI-Virtuosi||25||+ 16.453|
|8||Roy Nissany||Trident||25||+ 20.792|
|9||Luca Ghiotto||Hitech GP||25||+ 24.222|
|10||Callum Ilott||UNI-Virtuosi||25||+ 25.808|
|11||Juri Vips||DAMS||25||+ 28.877|
|12||Pedro Piquet||Charouz||25||+ 29.776|
|13||Jack Aitken||Campos||25||+ 36.613|
|14||Marino Sato||Trident||25||+ 36.613|
|15||Marcus Armstrong||ART GP||25||+ 41.410|
|16||Artem Markelov||HWA Racelab||25||+ 44.258|
|17||Christian Lundgaard||ART GP||25||+ 46.051|
|18||Giuliano Alesi||HWA Racelab||25||+ 47.045|
|19||Jehan Daruvala||Carlin||25||+ 1m 32.794|
|21||Nobuharu Matsushita||MP Motorsport||3||Collision|
|DSQ||Felipe Drugovich||MP Motorsport||25||–|