Frederik Vesti took his first win of the season in style, claiming victory in the Jeddah Feature Race from sixth on the grid. The PREMA Racing driver had been fighting with pole sitter Victor Martins until the ART Grand Prix driver spun out of the race. From that point on, Vesti remained composed to secure the win.
Jack Doohan remained cool and collected to come through for a valuable P2 to get his season back on track. Jehan Daruvala made it back-to-back P3 finishes for MP Motorsport, rounding out the podium places.
AS IT HAPPENED
Oliver Bearman edged the start over Martins to take the lead into Turn 1. Doohan pressured his fellow Alpine Academy junior and settled into third behind. A Virtual Safety Car was deployed on the second lap to recover the PHM Racing by Charouz of Brad Benavides, the American pulling off after contact with Amaury Cordeel resulted in damage.
The VSC was withdrawn entering Lap 3 and Bearman scampered clear. The battle for second was hotly contested, with Doohan glued to the rear wing of Martins going back to green flag conditions. It was PREMA Racing 1-4 as Vesti closed on the podium battle while Bearman extended his lead beyond a second by Lap 6.
The first of the pitstops arrived on Lap 7 with Doohan dragging Vesti, Ayumu Iwasa, Théo Pourchaire and Kush Maini from inside the top 10 with him for mediums. The PREMA mechanics got their man out in front of the Invicta Virtuosi Racing driver to leapfrog Doohan for position. Bearman and Martins followed on Lap 8 and the pair remained as they were on pit exit, a handful of seconds clear of Vesti.
Martins had closed prior to the pitstops and on Lap 10, got his chance into Turn 1 on Bearman. Millimetres separated the pair side-by-side through the opening corners. The Frenchman prevailed, but had to give the position back having completed the pass just beyond the track limits.
The following lap and Martins got his move to stick, taking the lead into the first corner with DRS. Their battling allowed Vesti to close and, after Bearman ran wide out of the second corner, his teammate sneaked through for second. The PREMA of Vesti began to pile the pressure onto Martins, setting consecutive fastest laps to close to within half a second by Lap 15.
Bearman had managed to keep Doohan at arm’s length but a spin on Lap 16 at Turn 22 lost him two spots to Jehan Daruvala and Iwasa. Moments later, Martins was the one spinning out of the effective race lead. Through Turn 4, the ART Grand Prix driver lost the back end of his car, ending up sideways and out of the race.
A brief Virtual Safety Car ended on Lap 18 with Arthur Leclerc the leader but still yet to make his stop. The DAMS driver was in for his mandatory stop on Lap 24. A delay left him out in P9, 23 seconds behind leader Vesti. That became eighth on Lap 26 with a DRS pass on a struggling Bearman, the PREMA driver nursing his flat-spotted tyres to the end. Isack Hadjar took P9 from the Briton entering the final lap.
After taking the lead, Vesti went unchallenged at the front and claimed PREMA’s first win since the 2022 Monza Feature Race. Doohan and Daruvala completed the podium in second and third places respectively.
Ayumu Iwasa claimed fourth, holding off Dennis Hauger by just 0.3s across the line. Richard Verschoor made the alternative strategy work for him to finish P6. Enzo Fittipaldi was seventh ahead of Leclerc, Hadjar and Bearman, who clung on for a point in 10th.
KEY QUOTE – Frederik Vesti, PREMA Racing
“Thank you to PREMA, the car was amazing. First Feature Race win this year, I’m just so proud.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
Ralph Boschung remains at the top of the Drivers’ Championship on 33 points. Théo Pourchaire holds onto second after a scoreless round while Ayumu Iwasa climbs up to third, the DAMS driver now on 31 points.
Campos Racing retain the lead in the Teams’ Standings on 51 points. ART Grand Prix still sits second on 49, but DAMS and MP Motorsport have closed right up. The French outfit is now on 44 points in third, MP fourth with 43 to their tally.
FIA Formula 2 makes the trip down under for the first time ever. Round 3 takes us to Melbourne, Australia on 31 March – 2 April.