Prema’s Ollie Bearman bossed the streets of Baku by winning both races during a wild weekend of racing in Formula 2.
The Ferrari Academy driver’s emphatic weekend began by topping both free practice and qualifying on Friday, his feature race pole lap made even before remarkable due to carrying steering damage from an earlier brush with the wall.
Starting from ninth, victory in Saturday’s partially-reversed grid sprint race had looked unlikely for Bearman. But a highly-chaotic contest played into his hands.
The drama started as soon as the lights went out with ART’s Victor Martins making a great start from third but driving into the side of Rodin Carlin’s Zane Maloney, who had lined up from second.
Van Amersfoort Racing’s Richard Verschoor led into the first corner from pole, but struck the barriers on the exit and immediately slowed with damage before retiring. Maloney was briefly promoted to the front before being hamstrung by a right-rear puncture that was caused by his earlier contact with Martins.
MP Motorsport’s Dennis Hauger came through the melee to the lead the opening lap from sixth on the grid ahead of Martins, while Ralph Boschung and Theo Pourchaire both made up four places to sixth and seventh, the latter having been demoted three places on the starting grid for an infringement in qualifying.
Boschung soon pulled over with a mechanical issue, causing a safety car period. Hauger maintained the lead at the restart from Martins. Prema’s Frederik Vesti soon passed Hauger’s team-mate Jehan Daruvala for third, while Bearman went on a charge to climb three places to fourth.
A crash for Charouz’s Roy Nissany in the closing stages necessitated a second safety car intervention, and there was carnage when the race resumed with three laps remaining.
Caught out by cold tyres, both Hauger and Martins ploughed into the Tecpro barriers on the exit of turn one with Daruvala, who had moved to the outside of Bearman for fourth, slamming into the back of Martin’s stricken car and also retired.
Pourchaire, Arthur Leclerc and Jack Doohan also came to a stop down the escape road at the same corner after all making separate mistakes.
Vesti now led from Bearman, who then moved past his team-mate moments before the safety car was inevitably deployed for a third time. With the remainder of the race run under caution, Bearman took victory at the finish, leading a Prema one-two.
Hitech GP’s Jak Crawford took third ahead of Kush Maini and Enzo Fittipaldi. VAR’s Juan Manuel Correa was sixth ahead of Clement Novalak and Isack Hadjar, who scored the final point.
Sunday’s feature race proved far more straightforward. Bearman maintained the lead from pole ahead of Carlin’s Enzo Fittipaldi. Pourchaire quickly moved passed Fittipaldi before snatching the lead from Bearman. But one lap later Bearman responded to reclaim the advantage and then crucially pulled a second clear to break the DRS.
Bearman extended his advantage by a further second to Pourchaire during the early mandatory pitstops and ran third behind Isack Hadjar and Ayuma Iwasa, who had both started near the back of the field on an alternate strategy.
Pourchaire closed to within a second of net-lead by setting the fastest lap, but Bearman responded to pull away once more, despite making light contact with the barriers.
Pourchaire eventually faded and was passed by Fittipaldi, who found himself four seconds behind Bearman in second once Hadjar and Iwasa headed for the pits in the closing stages.
The deficit was halved by the chequered flag, with Bearman completing his double triumph ahead of Fittipaldi, and became the first driver in F2 history to top every season of a race weekend. Pourchaire came home third, a result that enabled to him to claim of the lead of the championship from Iwasa, who slipped to third in the standings after failing to score a point across the weekend.
Martins finished close behind in fourth, but was later disqualifed for a technical infringement. That handed fourth to Vesti, who had passed Campos Racing’s Kush Maini to initially claim a distant fifth, having lost ground during the early pitstop phase.
Hauger was sixth ahead of Hadjar and Verschoor, with Crawford ninth and Leclerc the final points-scorer in 10th. Daruvala missed out on a top-10 finish after making a mistake a turn one shortly after passing Crawford and then being penalised 10 seconds for an unsafe return to track. Brad Benadives was the only retiree.
Featured image credit: @formula2 official twitter