American driver Jak Crawford won his first FIA Formula 2 race in Saturday’s Sprint Race in Austria, Round 8 of the season.
The Hitech Pulse-Eight driver had started in pole position, but it was far from a straight-forward victory, as he became the eighth different winner of the season.
It’s the 18-year-old’s fourth podium of the year, after a second place in Australia and third’s in Baku and Monaco, all of which have come in Sprint Races.
Crawford is also the third American driver to win in Formula 2, after Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi and current Williams F1 driver Logan Sargeant.
Feature Race pole-sitter Victor Martins finished second, having started 10th and Trident scored their best result of the season as Clément Novalak reached the podium in third place.
Championship leader Frederik Vesti failed to score, as did his closest title rivals Théo Pourchaire and Ayumu Iwasa.
In fact, the highest-placed driver in the Drivers’ Standings to score points in the Sprint Race was MP Motorsport’s Dennis Hauger, who finished seventh.
Crawford in Control
With drizzle falling ahead of lights out, a mixture of choices were made between wet or dry tyres, with the Red Bull Junior Team driver selecting slicks.
Crawford made a good launch at lights out, but soon lost the lead to DAMS’ Arthur Leclerc, who started on wets.
But a spin for Jehan Daruvala left the Indian’s MP car stuck in the gravel, which necessitated a Safety Car, which was the cue for many of the wet tyre starters to box for slicks as the track began to dry up.
Among those were the PREMA’s of Vesti and Oliver Bearman and Pourchaire’s ART – who would receive a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release ahead of Bearman.
At the restart, Leclerc led Richard Verschoor who had also started on wets, but the Dutch driver spun on the exit of Turn 1 and crashed out of the race, which meant the return of the Safety Car.
Crawford resumed the lead as Leclerc boxed and executed a good restart, fending off Juan Manuel Correa, who now ran second as the order got shuffled again and again.
The Hitech driver extended his lead over Correa, before Martins moved into second, but Crawford masterfully and maturely managed his pace and retained a lead of over 2 seconds to the Frenchman.
A potential moment of concern arrived on Lap 18 when a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was called when Enzo Fittipaldi’s Rodin Carlin spun on straight between Turns 3 and 4, but Crawford again kept his composure, with Martins never looking likely to catch the leader.
Unlikely podium contenders as title protagonists struggle
With Crawford in control at the front, all the action was for the final spot on the podium, which Correa defended as hard as he could.
Trident driver Novalak spent several laps disputing the position, eventually winning the argument on Lap 18 at Turn 3, moments before the VSC was called.
However, the Frenchman still had to fend off compatriot Isack Hadjar in the sister Hitech, beating the F2 rookie to third by less than half a second.
The chaotic race saw all the top four drivers in the championship fail to score, as Vesti finished 10th, Pourchaire 16th with his penalty, Iwasa 13th, and Bearman ninth.
Vesti and Pourchaire will hope for better in Sunday’s Feature Race, starting from second and third respectively, while Bearman will be encouraged by his pace, having made ten places from his 19th start position.
DAMS’ Iwasa will have work to do overnight to avoid another pointless weekend.
Sunday’s Feature Race starts at 09:55CET.