Ayumu Iwasa converted pole position into Feature Race victory, but it was far from straight forward for the DAMS driver. The Japanese racer just about won the battle with Felipe Drugovich in the final laps of the year, as the 2022 Drivers’ Champion attempted to sign off his title-winning season with victory.
However, he did help MP Motorsport do the double to win their first Teams’ Championship as a parting gift. Liam Lawson claimed third place after his Sprint Race victory on Saturday, and with Logan Sargeant P5, the American driver earned enough points to secure his F1 Super Licence and Williams drive for 2023.
AS IT HAPPENED
Iwasa moved to cover off his teammate immediately at the start, but Roy Nissany had the momentum. The duo remained side-by-side into Turn 2 until the Red Bull junior claimed the lead heading down the hill into the hairpin. Behind the DAMS duo, Drugovich made the move for P3 immediately as Théo Pourchaire went wide in the first corner and fell back to fifth as a result.
At Turn 6, the Carlin teammates were fighting for position, with Lawson overtaking Sargeant out of the chicane for sixth. Into Turn 9, Ralph Boschung spun and couldn’t get going again, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car to recover the Campos Racing car. That VSC ended on Lap 3 and Pourchaire was opportunistic to seize fourth from Dennis Hauger as racing went back to green.
Meanwhile, Drugovich had his first chance at taking second and, after having a look into Turn 6, sealed the position from Nissany along the second DRS zone heading into the Turn 9 hairpin.
Hauger and Lawson were the first of the soft-tyred runners to pit, swapping to the mediums on Lap 8. The Carlin team were able to get their stop done quicker to help Lawson jump ahead in the pitlane. Meanwhile on track, Pourchaire made use of DRS to take third from Nissany but only momentarily. The ART Grand Prix driver ran wide at Turn 9 and allowed the DAMS back through. He pitted at the end of the lap along with Iwasa.
The undercut for Lawson worked to perfection for the New Zealander as he leapfrogged the Frenchman. Pourchaire was struggling for tyre temperature and with Hauger on the attack, locked up into Turn 6 and ran wide. He was forced to concede the place to the Norwegian.
Drugovich, Nissany and Sargeant were the next to box for mediums. The 2022 Champion was able to stay ahead of Lawson, but only just. Nissany and Sargeant meanwhile came back out behind the Pourchaire/Hauger battle.
Having started on the medium tyres, Jack Doohan assumed the lead of the race on the alternate strategy ahead of Marcus Armstrong and Richard Verschoor after the opening 10 laps.
There was a close call for Drugovich on Lap 13 into the Turn 6 braking zone, the MP driver thought about a late dive but had to bail on the move. He narrowly avoiding running into the back of the DAMS driver and dropped to over a second behind Iwasa.
Lap 19 and the Hauger versus Pourchaire battle continued as the ART dived down the inside to take 11th on the road. The PREMA driver fought back though in the following DRS zone and reclaimed the place. Three laps later and Pourchaire made the move stick. Opting to stick behind the PREMA for a second bite of DRS, he forced an error from Hauger as the Norwegian went deep into Turn 9, giving Pourchaire a clear route through for position.
Doohan finally pitted on Lap 26 after running further than everyone else barring Enzo Fittipaldi on the mediums. He looked to be re-joining fifth on the road but after filtering back out on track, lost his front left tyre, forcing him out of the race. The VSC was quickly deployed to recover the errant tyre on Lap 28.
Into the final five laps and Drugovich clawed his way back inside DRS range of race leader Iwasa. Further back, Sargeant had been frustrated in seventh for much of the race but finally pulled off a move to take sixth, going all the way around the outside of Turn 9.
With four laps to go, Pourchaire had been eying a podium but had to retire in sight of the finish. The Frenchman was unlucky to hit a bird, causing an issue on his ART that promoted Hauger back into fourth and put him out of the race.
The fight for the lead was separated by millimetres as Drugovich tried to pass Iwasa around the outside of Turn 9. He attempted a switchback through Turns 10 and 11 but the DAMS driver just about held on to first.
Onto the final lap and the gap for the win stood at just 0.5s. The Brazilian forced Iwasa to go on the defensive into Turn 6 and had DRS once again into Turn 9. Iwasa just about held Drugovich at bay to take his second win in F2. Lawson closed up at the end to make it two podiums from two in the final weekend.
Hauger and Sargeant rounded out the top five with Amaury Cordeel, Richard Verschoor, Jüri Vips, Marcus Armstrong and Nissany completing the top 10, after a five-second penalty for track limits demoted the Israeli driver down from seventh.
KEY QUOTE – Ayumu Iwasa, DAMS
“I'm really, really happy. It's the last race of the season and actually, it was really tough because I had really big pressure from Felipe. But at the end, I could defend well so, but still I need to look at the data to get the information on what I can do even more. Anyways, really happy!"
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
Lawson’s double podium this weekend lifts him up to third in the Drivers’ Championship on 149 points while Iwasa’s second F2 win moves him to P5 on 141 points, behind F1-bound Sargeant on 148.
MP Motorsport claimed its first F2 Teams’ title on 305 points, thanks to Felipe Drugovich’s P2 result. Théo Pourchaire’s late retirement and Carlin’s P3 and P5 result lifted the British team above ART Grand Prix in the final standings and up to second.
While the curtain has fallen on the 2022 F2 campaign, post-season testing takes place at Yas Marina between 23-25 November.