Guanyu Zhou claimed his maiden Formula Two victory in a dramatic sprint race which was curtailed after seven laps, following a huge smash involving Jack Aitken and Luca Ghiotto.
Zhou led from lights to flag whilst Mazepin initially lost second to Aitken before reclaiming the position on lap two, with Schumacher making a pass up the inside of Aitken a lap later to claim third.
Aitken soon found himself battling Jehan Daruvala for fourth which he defended until lap seven when Luca Ghiotto made an inside move into Turn Two, of which Aitken got greater traction but the pair collided through Turn Three to send both drivers crashing underneath the barriers.
Ghiotto’s Hitech GP car caught fire as a result of the incident which combined with the damage to the barriers, resulted in the early abandonment of the race with results counted back to lap five with Zhou declared the winner ahead of Mazepin and Schumacher as half points awarded to the top eight finishers on countback to lap five.
Speaking on his first win in the series, Zhou said; “It feels amazing. The first part of the race was clean and strong on my side. We did everything we could and I was comfortably leading the race at the front.
“Me and Mazepin had a pace advantage to the others and it was about getting on with a good gap. He wasn’t able to overtake me and yeah I’m really happy for the win.”
By virtue of countback, Aitken finished fourth ahead of Ghiotto, Yuki Tsunoda, Callum Ilott and Dan Ticktum, as Mazepin claimed the fastest lap point after posting a 1m 51.873 on lap five.
In terms of the drivers’ standings. Schumacher extended his championship lead over Ilott to 22 points with a maximum of 96 points available across the final two rounds in Bahrain, which will be held across weekends of 27-29 November and 4-6 December 2020.
Zhou got a clean getaway at the initial start to lead from Aitken who leapfrogged Mazepin for third whilst Schumacher got an ordinary start, yet he bided his time on inside line towards Turn Two and was able to benefit from squabbles up ahead to slip through into fourth on exit of corner.
Further back, Guilherme Samaia got wide through the same corner and tagged Jake Hughes to send both drivers into retirement with resulting punctures.
Mazepin managed to reclaim second on lap two from Aitken after the Brit ran wide through Turn Four to concede position, with Schumacher and Daruvala following through in final two corners on lap three.
Aitken however immediately fought back with DRS to pass Daruvala into Turn Two whilst up front, Mazepin had reeled in Zhou to get within DRS range by lap six but was unable to get past before the red flag was waved on lap seven.
Ghiotto had made a move on Aitken for fourth via inside line of Turn Two but Aitken fought back with better traction from outside line, allowing him to pull alongside the Italian through Turn Three but put too much of a squeeze on the Italian and the pair collided.
Aitken steered straight on and ended up underneath the tyre barriers whilst Ghiotto was launched airborne on impact of contact and smashed into the tyre wall front first, with his Hitech GP consequently catching fire which caused an instant red flag to be waved as both drivers escaped unharmed.
Stewards however decided to abandon the race just over 20 minutes later due to the extensive damage to the barriers, which required urgent repair ahead of the F1 race later today.
Race results therefore were counted back to lap five with Zhou securing his first F2 victory after 42 races in the category, excluding the abandoned and cancelled Belgian races of last season.
Post-race, Aitken took to Twitter to explain that he had suffered a rear puncture in the immediate lead-up to the collision following a small touch from Ghiotto.
Hi all, thanks for all the messages, I’m glad to be all ok after that, glad Luca is too. A small touch between us earlier in the corner gave me a rear puncture, and the car just started going straight. Just one of them.
— Jack Aitken – 한세용 (@JaitkenRacer) September 27, 2020
Sprint Race Result (Countback to end of Lap Five)
|1||Guanyu Zhou||UNI-Virtuosi||5||14m 34.630|
|2||Nikita Mazepin||Hitech GP||5||+ 0.818|
|3||Mick Schumacher||Prema||5||+ 4.816|
|4||Jack Aitken||Campos||5||+ 6.459|
|5||Luca Ghiotto||Hitech GP||5||+ 7.670|
|6||Yuki Tsunoda||Carlin||5||+ 8.282|
|7||Callum Ilott||UNI-Virtuosi||5||+ 9.141|
|8||Dan Ticktum||DAMS||5||+ 9.769|
|9||Pedro Piquet||Charouz||5||+ 10.506|
|10||Robert Shwartzman||Prema||5||+ 11.244|
|11||Jehan Daruvala||Carlin||5||+ 11.988|
|12||Artem Markelov||HWA Racelab||5||+ 12.438|
|13||Christian Lundgaard||ART GP||5||+ 13.536|
|14||Marcus Armstrong||ART GP||5||+ 14.053|
|15||Marino Sato||Trident||5||+ 14.611|
|16||Giuliano Alesi||MP Motorsport||5||+ 15.032|
|17||Louis Deletraz||Charouz||5||+ 15.717|
|18||Juri Vips||DAMS||5||+ 17.100|
|19||Roy Nissany||Trident||5||+ 17.757|
|20||Felipe Drugovich||MP Motorsport||5||+ 38.002|
|21||Jake Hughes||HWA Racelab||0||Collision|