Dennis Hauger took his first F2 Feature Race win after a tense battle with Jüri Vips that ended after the Hitech driver crashed. The pair were battling sector by sector in the closing stages and with just over five minutes remaining, the Grand Prix man Hitech cut through the wall in the castle section, giving Hauger victory.
Logan Sargeant put in a measured drive to take second place and championship leader Felipe Drugovich extended his points advantage by finishing third. Jehan Daruvala places two PREMA Racing cars in the top five followed by Richard Verschoor in fifth position. Enzo Fittipaldi maintained his impressive goalscoring record with sixth place while Frederik Vesti recovered from a stall at the start line to move back to seventh place. Marino Sato, Ralph Boschung and Jake Hughes completed the top 10 in a spectacular Baku Feature Race.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Vips poleman got off to a great start and comfortably covered Lawson to seal the lead. Verschoor was aggressive and dove inside Drugovich on Turn 2, forcing the championship leader to play it safe and concede the place. His slowed momentum left him defending against Daruvala, with the PREMA Racing driver the next to go, putting Pourchaire just behind his title rival in ninth position.
A contact between Amaury Cordeel and Olli Caldwell at turn 4 caused the Safety Car to exit shortly afterwards. Both came out in place, but it was a bonus for Sprint race winner Frederik Vesti, who stalled on the grid. He finally left the pit lane and joined the rear of the train.
The race resumed on lap 5 and Marcus Armstrong was immediately on the attack for P2. Lawson fended off the threat to hold the position as the Vips cleared up front. Pourchaire dropped two places on the restart, immediately losing to Hughes and later Doohan on the main straight on lap 6.
Daruvala and Ayumu Iwasa were immediately with the pit lane open for stops, switching to medium at the first opportunity. On the track and with DRS on, Lawson was under heavy pressure from Armstrong, but stuck his elbows out at turn 3 to hold position.
Lawson and Hauger opted to pit heading into lap 9, but Carlin was forced to hold the New Zealander to a stop as the cars filtered into the fast lane, allowing the PREMA man to win the place. Vips opted to cover their nearest rivals on the next lap and held on to the effective race lead despite a late fitting of the right rear mid tire.
Armstrong was forced to stay one more lap with his pit mate and was the last of the leaders on conventional strategy to pit on lap 11. This turned out to be a good decision as he joined Vips and took the clear lead from the Estonian. It was a temporary win, but like with the DRS, Vips flashed through to the next lap in Turn 1.
The safety car was back on lap 12 following an incident between Roy Nissany and Cem Bölükbasi. The Charouz Racing System rider made a pass into Turn 2 but on the exit the pair made wheel-to-wheel contact, sending them both into the barriers.
The race resumed on lap 15 with Calan Williams leading the pack on the contra strategy, yet to pit his mediums. He opted to wait as late as possible, which caught several behind him, including the two Hitech Grand Prix teammates. Armstrong nosedived into the back of Vips, but both made it through Turn 1 despite contact. Vips held onto second place, but Armstrong dropped to ninth as others took advantage of his mistake.
Further back, Pourchaire suffered damage to the front wing, while Iwasa hit Hughes’ back. The contact between Lawson and Doohan left the New Zealander with a puncture, an incident for which the Virtuosi rider would later be given a five-second penalty. Debris from the series of incidents quickly knocked out the virtual safety car.
The VSC was retired on lap 17 with Vips the effective leader in second with Williams still pitted. Hauger was pressing Vips for the de facto lead and the Hitech was not hanging around. With the DRS he attempted a pass on Williams, but the Trident rider got stuck in Turn 3 and missed the turn, setting the stage for the fight for first place.
Vips’ consecutive fastest laps on laps 19 and 20 didn’t quite break Hauger’s pursuit. The Norwegian clung to the leader, hovering at the limit of DRS range. Hauger kept the pressure on as the pair traded the fastest sectors lap after lap and it came to a head with six minutes left in the race.
Vips cut the wall in the castle section, knocking him into the barriers and out of the race, promoting the PREMA rider to the lead. As Vips hit the steering wheel in frustration, the safety car was called back to retrieve the Hitech car.
The cleanup job took up the remaining time on the clock and Hauger led the train across the line to his maiden F2 Feature Race victory. Sargeant and Drugovich complete the podium and are followed by Daruvala, Verschoor, Enzo Fittipaldi, Vesti, Marino Sato, Boschung and Hughes.
KEY QUOTE – Dennis Hauger, PREMA Racing
“Really happy with the first place in the Feature Race. It was a mess. I tried to put Jüri under a bit of pressure, especially at the end just before the crash. He had really good pace so that’s a shame for him but really happy with the win. It’s a good step for me this season. I think we’re building what I’m happy with.
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
With his third place, Drugovich increased his advantage over Pourchaire by 15 points, who found himself outside the top 10. The Brazilian is now 49 points clear at the top of the standings with 132 points. Daruvala remains third, but Hauger’s victory moves him from 13th in the standings to fourth. Armstrong is still in the top five despite his no-score.
MP Motorsport retains first place in the team standings, now with 154 points. PREMA’s double puts the team in second place with 128 points, while ART now sits in third place with 124 points.
Formula 2 action returns in two weeks to Silverstone from July 1-3.
Click here for the full results from Baku