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Vesti Keeps Championship Hopes Alive After Thrilling Sprint Race

Written by Caitlyn Gordon, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Vesti took the final sprint race win of the season; Credits - Clive Rose via Getty Images.

After 83 days, Formula 2 returned to the screens, with championships still on the line, and will go down to the wire, to Sunday’s feature race.

A recap of the last F2 race weekend

Before the break, F2 hit the circuit home to Ferrari, known as the Temple of Speed, Monza. After a point-less weekend for both Theo Pourchaire and Frederik Vesti, the pair were looking to advance their championship hopes in Italy. A mere 12-point gap split the pair up in the standings.

However, after the Sprint Race, it was further dwindled down to only seven points when the Dane took the win. However, luck wasn’t on Vesti’s side on Sunday, a collision with Roman Stanek’s Trident seeing the PREMA driver exit the race on the first lap itself.

This provided Pourchaire with an easier race for points, the Frenchman took the opportunity and grabbed himself a second place, losing out on the win to Vesti’s teammate Oliver Bearman.

The weekend so far

Heading into Abu Dhabi, Pourchaire held a 25-point advantage, with Vesti looking to bring in his A-game for the finale.

The blazing afternoon sun of the Middle Eastern weather hit the circuit on Friday. After several F2 drivers — including both Vesti and Pourchaire — got the chance to participate in a Formula 1 FP1 session, the drivers scrambled to get ready for the Qualifying session which would set the tone for the weekend.

Pourchaire seemed to struggle with pace in comparison to his teammate Victor Martins, who went fastest overall with a 1.36.692. Sitting outside the top 10, the Frenchman was still only setting green sectors during his lap times. His championship rival on the other hand, was sitting comfortably inside the top 10.

As the clock ticked down, and the final laps took place, Pourchaire’s last lap took him up to eighth only. But as the rest of the grid continued to pass the chequered flag, the ART driver was continuously pushed down the grid, and would start 14th for both races. Jack Doohan took another pole position, with Martins and Maini rounding out the Feature Race front rows. Vesti, however, will be starting ninth.

So, with the weekend all rounded up, how did the Sprint Race pan out?

The lights go green in Abu Dhabi

As the drivers started their formation laps, Paul Aron and Arthur Leclerc stalled their cars. Meanwhile for everyone else, the formation went smoothly. The five lights went out and for the final time of the year, as the Sprint Race went green. Most drivers got away safely, Juan Manuel Correa was the exception of this, as he was hit in the first sector, and subsequently spun around at turn three. His race was over.

A frantic first lap ensued, with pole sitter Enzo Fittipaldi pushing to keep his position ahead of a pressuring Vesti in second. The drivers were going side-by-side until Fittipaldi got some breathing room, and started to pull away slightly.

However, that wasn’t the end of the first-place squabble, Vesti shot back up and took the lead of the race with a four-way battle now underway for the position. Isack Hadjar and Richard Verschoor put their wheels into the fight and by the final corner, an almost four-wide battle was taking place.

The safety car evened the grid out once more. Photo credits: Clive Mason/Getty Images

As the yellow flag dawned on the circuit, the battle was halted, and Fittipaldi was comfortably sitting in front, for now.

The Van Amersfoort Racing car was recovered from the track, and racing was underway once again on the sixth lap. Fittipaldi had a great restart, and held onto the lead. Hadjar in second place was just outside the DRS range, paving the way for Fittipaldi to start building up a gap.

After dropping down to fourth place, Vesti climbed back up to third, overtaking Verschoor on the restart lap.

Down the rest of the pack, Pourchaire had already made an impressive start, sitting in eighth place after starting fourteenth. The news of this recovery seemed to ignite something in Vesti, as the Prema driver started pushing to the limit, in hopes of securing a sixth win of the season.

After several laps of battling with Hadjar, Vesti finally overtook the Red Bull junior in a bold overtake around turn nine, and was in pursuit of a race win. A three-second gap stood between the Dane and his sixth victory of the session. This didn’t hinder him, as he pushed every lap, cutting down the time in every sector.

With only a couple of laps remaining in the final sprint race of the year, Vesti was chasing down Fittipaldi, and was only five tenths of a second behind the Brazilian. After a lock-up from the Red Bull junior, Vesti knew it was his chance.

The red PREMA once again made an impressive overtake, this time for the lead of the race. Fittipaldi was unable to fight back, and Vesti built up a comfortable gap.

Celebrations after an impressive race from Vesti; Credits: Joe Portlock/Getty Images

Crossing the line over three seconds ahead of Fittipaldi, Vesti earned himself the fastest lap earning maximum points, the Championship battle heading into the final race of the season.

Pourchaire wound up seventh, earning two points for his strong recovery drive. A 15-point gap is what separates the two drivers and tomorrow, Vesti will need to finish on the podium to earn the Championship.

Luck will also need to be on the Dane's side, if Pourchaire manages to finish fifth or higher, Vesti’s hopes of the Championship will come crumbling down.

Fittipaldi and Verschoor rounded out the podium. Down the rest of the pack, Hauger, Hadjar, Doohan, Pourchaire and Iwasa took the rest of the Sprint points. A tough race for Bearman who finished in tenth place.

Aron, in his first F2 race, finished in 16th place, after recovering from a stalling at the start of the race. Leclerc wasn’t so lucky, and finished 21st.

The championship will head into the final race, with big points on the line, and Vesti with a starting advantage over Pourchaire in 14th. Who will prevail, and take the 2023 title home with them? Tomorrow’s feature race will tell the tale of the 2023 Formula 2 World Champion.


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