Dennis Hauger won a challenging FIA Formula 2 Sprint Race in Melbourne as the weather, once again, played a part this weekend.
The drama for Australia’s Sprint Race started even before the lights went out. Enzo Fittipaldi found the wall on the way to the grid, and Ralph Boschung also had an incident that meant he couldn’t start the Sprint either.
After a delayed start, Hauger led the pack away from reverse grid pole. He had a great start ahead of fellow Red Bull Junior Jak Crawford.
Ayumu Iwasa picked up a puncture on Lap 2 after contact with Zane Maloney on the opening lap. The Japanese driver locked up going into Turn 1 on the second lap, damaging the tyre further and forcing him to pit.
Kush Maini and Arthur Leclerc had a great battle for third throughout Lap 7. Leclerc passed Maini at the chicane before the Indian driver retook the position later on in the lap with a bold move to the inside.
Unlike most Sprint Races, a lot of drivers split their strategies. Leclerc was the highest-positioned driver to start the race on the option tyre but struggled to make significant progress through the field before his tyres started to wear.
Maloney passed Victor Martins for fifth at the Turn 9-10 chicane, doing well to keep his car on the track after having a moment whilst wheel-to-wheel with Martins’ ART.
The rain started to fall on Lap 14, which saw Jack Doohan’s race end prematurely. Juan Manuel Correa made contact with the Australian’s Virtuosi, hitting the back of the home favourite’s car at Turn 3.
Correa was later awarded a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision. However, he was running P14 when the Safety Car came in, so points weren’t looking likely for the VAR driver anyway.
Théo Pourchaire was the first driver to pit for wet tyres under the Safety Car. He was followed into the pits by Roman Stanek, who found the gravel as soon as he exited the pits.
Another wet tyre stopper, Brad Benavides, hit the wall at Turn 13 after pushing to join the Safety Car queue. A recovery vehicle’s services were required to move his car, meaning the restart was delayed by a couple of laps.
The decision to stay on dry tyres proved to be the correct one. Pourchaire ran wide and into the gravel on the penultimate tour, while the leaders looked much more comfortable on their dry prime and option tyres.
Hauger won Formula 2’s first race in Melbourne with a lights-to-flag victory in mixed weather conditions. He was joined by Crawford and Maini, who both picked up their maiden podiums.
Image: Formula Motorsport Limited