Wickens wins inaugural F2 race
Canadian Robert Wickens, a member of the Red Bull Junior Team, has won the first F2 race to take place in 25 years after taking a commanding victory at Valencia today (Saturday).
|The top three after the podium ceremony|
Robert took the win and the points lead of the 2009 FIA Formula Two Championship after a flawless drive from pole position. Carlos Iaconelli was second and Kazim Vasiliauskas third, with the trio receiving their trophies from FIA President Max Mosley. Tobias Hegewald retired after running into a slowing Andy Soucek, causing a safety car period.
Wickens got a fantastic start off the line, followed by Soucek and Iaconelli, who were able to pass Hegewald after the German got bogged down from the start. Mikhail Aleshin was fourth until Lithuanian Kazim Vasiliauskas made a great move on Aleshin at the final turn to move into fifth before the end of the opening lap.
Hegewald passed Iaconelli for third before the race began to stabilize up front, before drama struck at the front of the field. On lap 14, a slowing Andy Soucek exited Turn 12 and an unsighted Tobias Hegewald made contact with the Spaniard. Both cars were out on the spot and a safety car was deployed.
At the restart, Wickens made another textbook getaway with Carlos Iaconelli settling behind in second. The fight for third continued as both Mikhail Aleshin and Julien Jousse pressured Vasiliauskas. Jousse made a move on Red Bull junior driver Aleshin, but the Frenchman ran wide coming out of turn two - handing fifth place to Philipp Eng. The Austrian himself then lost the position by spinning on the final lap of the race.
Jousse was able to re-collect fifth at the finish ahead of a charging Mirko Bortolotti, whilst Henry Surtees and Alex Brundle rounded out the top eight.
There were some great tussles behind as Nicola de Marco, Jack Clarke and Sebastian Hohenthal scrambled to get in the points. None of the trio could manage it, although Italian De Marco was able to sneak past Clarke for ninth place late in the race.
A delighted race winner Robert Wickens said: "It was a bit of a difficult race. I was able to get a good start and hold onto P1, but then Andy was able to put pressure on me for the opening laps so I had to push quite hard. Once I had a bit of a gap I just focused on consistency and keeping it together."
"My car was very consistent and drivable and we made some changes before the race that went well. To be perfectly honest I would have preferred the safety car to not come out, because I had quite a healthy gap and was happy with where I was. I got a good restart though, and it's phenomenal to get the first win. It's a big boost in confidence - everyone goes into the first race wanting to win, so for me to do it is a great way to start the championship."
Carlos Iaconelli drove a good consistent race to take second, but the Brazilian admitted it was a tough race: "The race was not easy for anybody, but I made a good start and it went well," he said. "In the beginning I struggled with my brake balance, but I just tried to push hard and stay on track. It was quite difficult at times. I didn't know who was behind me when Andy went off, but I managed to avoid him and from there I just tried to guide the car home."
Surprise package of the weekend so far has been 18-year-old Kazim Vasiliauskas who is embarking on his first full season of car racing: "I'm really surprised because I started from P9," Vasiliauskas admitted. "My start was good and on the first lap I managed to pass some drivers on the inside and outside, and tried to chase down Hegewald. Then in the middle of the race I had some luck when Hegewald and Soucek had an accident, but I was fast as well."
"I had a lot of nerves after the safety car, because I only had one boost and thought I might struggle into the first corner, but after that I was a little bit faster and the race went well."
FIA President Max Mosley said: "I thought the first race was excellent. The whole Formula Two set up is so professional, but what was most impressive was that all the cars were so reliable. It was also very impressive during qualifying to see 15 drivers from 12 nationalities separated by less than one second.
"I think the championship fits precisely with the cost cutting measures that are being adopted in Formula One. The barriers to entry have just been too big and too expensive in the past. This is a means for people to get into Formula One without spending a fortune, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see some drivers from this year’s Formula Two Championship progress into Formula One."
Championship leader Wickens will also start tomorrow's F2 race from pole position and the remaining 24 drivers will be fighting hard to make sure the Canadian does not score a clean sweep of victories on the opening weekend of the season.