After a difficult start to the season, Jüri Vips has ensured his title challenge is well and truly in motion, with the Hitech Grand Prix driver winning for the second time in a row in the Baku Feature Race.
Beating out PREMA Racing duo Oscar Piastri and Robert Shwartzman, Vips becomes just the second double-winner of 2021, and is the first driver in Formula 2 to take two wins in a single weekend.
Piastri slices Guanyu Zhou’s lead in the Drivers’ Championship down to just five points. The UNI-Virtuosi racer finished outside of the points in 13th, telling his team over the radio he just didn’t have the pace.
Shwartzman was up from 10th after a disappointing Qualifying session and scored his second podium of both the season and the weekend, following up his Sprint Race 1 win with P3 to move up to third in the title fight.
AS IT HAPPENED
Jack Aitken was the only driver to line up on the mediums, but the HWA RACELAB driver ended up starting from the pitlane, having stopped on track during the formation lap. There was a similar problem for the Campos Racing of Matteo Nannini, but the Italian couldn’t get going again.
After an aborted start and a second formation lap, Lawson and Vips gave their team a heart-in-mouth moment, the duo going side-by-side off the line and into the first corner. Eventually, Vips scooched ahead, but not before a touch of contact between the pair. Thankfully for Hitech, they both got away unscathed.
Piastri had gotten a great jump off the line from third and made the most of the duo’s brawl to clamber ahead of Lawson and into second.
As was the case in both of the Sprint Races, the field wouldn’t make it through the first lap without a Safety Car, as Marcus Armstrong got caught up in a scuffle with Dan Ticktum and Pourchaire.
None of the trio came off well, as Armstrong ended up in the wall and out of the race before Pourchaire retired from the pits. Meanwhile, Carlin were forced to bring Ticktum in for a new front wing, with the Briton also getting a new set of tyres, before being handed a 10s-time penalty for causing the collision.
When racing resumed, Lawson regained P2 from Piastri and started to stare down his teammate in first, but was then handed a 10s-time penalty as well, for forcing Pourchaire off-track at the start of the race.
Vips was taking no risks and immediately headed into the pits to ditch his supersofts at the first opportunity on Lap 6, returning in ninth. Lawson made the change on the next lap, serving his penalty and returning in P13, while Piastri headed in from first and returned directly behind Vips.
As the rest of the grid, apart from Ticktum and Aitken, all headed in on Laps 9 and 10, Vips, Piastri and Ralph Boschung lined up in the provisional podium spots. But the Campos wasn’t in the position for long, getting overtaken by Shwartzman, who was up from 10th.
Piastri’s podium was also under threat, as the PREMA was given a 5s time penalty for an unsafe release, with 14 laps left to try and build a buffer. Meanwhile, Lawson was making moves on his way back through the field, rising to eighth after passes on Christian Lundgaard and Jehan Daruvala.
Piastri was closing in on Vips after the Estonian was held up by the backmarker of Alessio Deledda, with the Italian given a time penalty for not letting the Hitech past. Once he had overcome Deledda, Vips was able to hunt down Aitken in second and put the HWA in-between himself and Piastri. Ticktum then pitted from first, serving his time penalty and returning in 11h, while Aitken fell to P12, after his own pitstop.
Despite the penalty, Ticktum was on the charge, setting purple first and second sectors before picking off both David Beckmann and Lundgaard for P8, behind Daruvala and Lirim Zendeli. Drugovich had edged ahead of Boschung for fourth, but was too far off Shwarztman to trouble the podium places.
KEY QUOTE – JÜRI VIPS (HITECH GRAND PRIX)
“Another victory for us today. It has been a very, very good weekend and a really good step forward for us. It is quite crazy to think that I am P4 in the Championship after scoring zero in Bahrain, as well as having a pretty compromised weekend in Monaco.
“We are really on an upward trend now with the team and things are starting to come together, so I will try and carry this momentum into Silverstone.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
Zhou remains in first place after Round 3 in Baku, but has seen his lead at the top of the Drivers’ Championship sliced down to just five points, with Piastri on 73 points in second. Shwartzman is third on 66 points, Vips fourth with 64 and Ticktum fifth with 60.
In the Teams’ Championship, PREMA are now first on 139 points, ahead of UNI-Virtuosi on 119. Hitech Grand Prix are tied on points with Carlin in third and fourth, with ART Grand Prix fifth.
Zhou has just over a month to wait until he has to defend his Championship lead, with the field set to travel to Silverstone for Round 4 of the season on 16-18 July.