Japanese driver Ayumu Iwasa held off 2022 FIA Formula 2 Champion Felipe Drugovich to win the Abu Dhabi Feature Race, in a pulsating conclusion to the F2 season.
Iwasa’s second Feature Race win of the season was thoroughly well earnt, as the Red Bull Junior Team driver was forced to defend the lead on the final lap, adding to his victory in Le Castellet earlier in the year.
21-year-old Iwasa said: “It was quite big pressure! It was a tough race, but it was good training for in the future.”
Drugovich’s second place tied up a first Teams’ title for his Dutch team, as MP sealed both championships in 2022, ahead of Carlin and ART Grand Prix.
Carlin’s Logan Sargeant did enough to secure his place in Formula 1 in 2023 with fifth place and a penalty free weekend, having spent much of the race stuck behind Iwasa’s DAMS team mate Roy Nissany, as the American driver finished fourth in the Drivers’ Championship.
Saturday’s Sprint Race winner Liam Lawson completed the podium, despite starting from ninth on the grid.
Carlin snatched second in the Teams’ Standings from ART as a late car issue saw Frenchman Théo Pourchaire retire with a handful of laps remaining.
Iwasa lays down 2023 marker with excellent weekend
Iwasa had already scored a victory and pole position in F2 this season, but this weekend’s performance saw the Japanese driver achieve both at the same event for the first time.
In an all-DAMS front-row, the 21-year-old was challenged off the line by team mate Roy Nissany, but held position on the outside of Turn 1.
Running the conventional soft-to-medium strategy, the Honda backed driver was able to retain a net lead ahead of those on the same strategy, while Vitruosi’s Jack Doohan ran the alternate strategy.
Iwasa survived a scare when the chasing Drugovich locked his rear tyres in the braking zone for Turn 7, with the Aston Martin reserve driver narrowly avoiding contact with the rear of the DAMS.
It seemed that Iwasa’s victory was as certain as can be in Formula 2 when Doohan’s Virtuosi lost a wheel exiting the pit lane on Lap 26, luckily no-one was injured and the Australian was forced to retire, instead of attempting a stirring drive to challenge the leaders.
But the battle with Drugovich was not over, as the Brazilian hustled the DAMS driver over the final two laps, attempting to pass with DRS.
Iwasa held firm in a thrilling finale to cross the line just eight-tenths of a second ahead of the 2022 F2 Champion and place a marker for a potential title bid in 2023.
Sargeant keeps it clean to reach F1 promise land
Logan Sargeant had been announced as a Williams Racing F1 driver for 2023, pending the outcome of the final F2 event of the season and the American securing the requisite super licence points.
After being forced wide by Carlin team mate Lawson on Lap 1, Sargeant steadied the ship and ran seventh for the opening laps, but complained of no grip as Doohan closed behind.
Carlin stretched the American’s opening stint and the prospective Williams driver found himself stuck behind front-row sitter Nissany, who struggled for pace, as Sargeant complained on the radio again, this time about the teams’ strategy choice.
An understandably tentative Sargeant was cautious in his attempts to pass Nissany but, after Doohan’s exit from the race, the 21-year-old pulled the move on the Israeli ahead, on the outside of Turn 9.
Pourchaire’s late DNF moved Sargeant to fifth, which secured fourth in the Drivers’ Standings, with only team mate Lawson jumping above him, thanks to the Kiwi’s Sprint Race win and podium in the Feature Race.
Image: Formula Motorsport Limited