Kazim Vasiliauskas scored a sublime maiden victory of the season in the opening F2 race at Imola today, whilst Andy Soucek clinched the 2009 FIA Formula Two Championship with a third place finish.
Vasiliauskas led from start to finish after making a clean getaway from the line, although he did have an anxious moment on the run down to Tamburello for the first time when he ran wide and caught the gravel. He managed to rejoin just in front of second place Mirko Bortolotti to maintain the lead, although he came under intense pressure.
There was trouble further down the field as Julien Jousse, Tobias Hegewald and Nicola De Marco all made contact as they came through Tamburello – the result was a spectacular barrel roll for Hegewald, whilst De Marco ended in the barriers. Jousse was able to continue after a brief trip to the pitlane.
The safety car was deployed to retrieve the stricken cars and Vasiliauskas was again under pressure from a gaggle of drivers at the restart. Bortolotti had Wickens all over him, who in turn had a fast starting Soucek behind.
Vasiliauskas soon found his rhythm and the youngster pulled away from the rest of the field to take a phenomenal victory by more than seven seconds. It is Kazim's first full season of single seater racing and he becomes the first Lithuanian to take an international race victory.
Bortolotti maintained second, but there was action behind as Soucek made his move through the field – the Spaniard needing only to finish ahead of Wickens and Aleshin to absolutely guarantee taking the title. Aleshin was already out of the picture after the Russian got a terrible start and also spun later in the race. Now Soucek was chasing down Wickens and the Spaniard got his man with a stunning move on the run down the back straight. Wickens had no answer and Soucek went on to pressure Bortolotti until the finish, taking his eighth podium of the season and with it, the championship.
Wickens took fourth ahead of Philipp Eng and MiloÅ¡ PavloviÄ‡, and the recovering Aleshin was some way back in seventh.
GermÃ¡n SÃ¡nchez continued with his impressive weekend and deservedly scored his first points of the season after fighting off Sebastian Hohenthal. The Spaniard also made a stellar pass on Natacha Gachnang early in the race, who was also fighting for her maiden points finish.
Sebastian Hohenthal was ninth and Julien Jousse rounded out the top ten after making a superb comeback from near the back of the field. Behind him Jolyon Palmer was involved in some fantastic duels as the Briton came through from 19th on the grid to finish 12th. Edoardo Piscopo finished fractions behind in 13th.
Tom Gladdis and Jack Clarke both recovered from an off-track moment, whilst Jens HÃ¶ing crashed out on lap four. Ollie Hancock's race was ruined on the first lap after a poor start was added to when Pietro Gandolfi spun into the Englishman – both drivers were immediately out on the spot.
Vasiliauskas said: "I am really proud of this win. It was a really good race, and I finished with a seven second gap as I was able to maintain my times throughout the race – in fact my last lap was the fastest of the race. It was a really good race, and I kept pushing right until the end."
Bortolotti said: "I had a good start today, although I had to avoid Kazim as he came back onto the circuit, which was quite dangerous. After that he closed the door a few times, so it was hard to get past. In the end second position and eight points is good, and now we are looking forward to tomorrow."
A jubilant Andy Soucek, who becomes the first F2 champion for 25 years, said: "I'm really, really happy. I wanted to win the championship with a podium at least, so I'm thrilled to have finished third. I was starting sixth which was not the best position, but I made my places off the track – it was not people having problems. It was an amazing race, possibly the best of my season so far. Now I am just going to try and win as many races as possible, and just try and enjoy it."