If Round 10 in Budapest showed that Jack Doohan was back with a bang, then his return to Spa-Francorchamps proved that the Invicta Virtuosi Racing driver’s resurgence wasn’t a one-off. After a run of performances that left him hungry for more, Doohan triumphed once again, taking to the top step of the podium for the second time in two weeks.
In contrast to his dominant visit to the Hungaroring, the Feature Race around Belgian circuit was all about patience and the Australian had to bide his time waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.
Meanwhile, fortunes ebbed and flowed for leading title contending duo of Frederik Vesti and Théo Pourchaire, with the ART Grand Prix driver entering the summer break with the momentum behind him.
Friday’s Qualifying was as much a race against the weather than the clock as the prospect of a downpour loomed. An early Red Flag inside the opening three minutes of running meant there was just one shot at a timed lap once green flag conditions resumed as rain began to fall.
Although Vesti was the first car out on track, it was Oliver Bearman who benefited the most. With his PREMA Racing teammate carving a clear line ahead, the Briton took full advantage to seize pole as those behind were caught out by a wet final sector.
Drier conditions greeted the field on Saturday, with Enzo Fittipaldi basking in the sunshine as he delivered a long-awaited first victory in Formula 2. Reverse grid pole sitter Jehan Daruvala did everything right at lights out, holding Richard Verschoor at bay and pulling outside of the DRS window. However, his race unravelled on Lap 3, as a loose headrest forced the MP Motorsport driver to retire from the race.
Knowing he needed to close the points gap to Vesti, Pourchaire dispatched Dennis Hauger and Ralph Boschung on the opening lap to move into fourth. However, Vesti had made moves of his own, climbing three places to sixth before the Safety Car was deployed for a stationary Amaury Cordeel.
Inheriting the lead and nailing the restart on Lap 5, Verschoor sat comfortably two seconds clear of second place Fittipaldi as battles unfolded behind. Hauger got revenge on Vesti, repassing the Dane into Les Combes and Doohan also took advantage at the chicane, overtaking Zane Maloney and Boschung there on consecutive laps.
It was PREMA versus ART as Vesti and Martins locked horns over sixth, with the pair battling side-by-side on the run from Les Combes down to Pouhon. However, the pace was clearly in the Frenchman’s favour and Vesti eventually capitulated, as Martins rocketed past with DRS.
The leading battle remained quiet until the final four laps. Having saved his medium tyres for a last burst of pace at the end, Fittipaldi wiped Verschoor’s lead away, taking half a second out of the Van Amersfoort Racing driver’s advantage on Lap 13.
Sitting right within DRS, the #4 Rodin Carlin aced his run out of La Source on the penultimate lap. Making full use of the slipstream down the Kemmel Straight, it was job done for the Brazilian by the time he exited Les Combes and he crossed the line 2.3s clear.
Pourchaire’s third-place finish eventually turned into second after Verschoor was disqualified for a technical infringement, promoting Hauger to third. Entering the Feature Race with a six-point deficit to Vesti, the title battle took another dramatic twist before the five lights even went out.
Spinning off on the reconnaissance lap around the damp Spa circuit, Vesti’s absence from the front row gave Pourchaire the opportunity he’d been looking for, particularly as fellow title rival Iwasa was also eliminated from the race after contact with Hauger on the opening lap.
Initially, pole-sitter Bearman looked untroubled as third-place starter Martins got bogged down off the line. The Safety Car restart on Lap 4 also proved no problem as Rodin Carlin’s Maloney and Fittipaldi were too busy duelling over third, with a slight nudge sending the Bajan driver wide and allowing Martins back through.
It wasn’t be long before Pourchaire started to hound Bearman with a mistake from the Briton opening the door, but the Sauber junior made an error of his own and followed him across the run-off.
With the pit window now open, Isack Hadjar opted to box. Attempting to manage cold tyres on a wet pit exit, the Hitech Pulse-Eight driver ran into the barriers, damaging his front wing and triggering a Virtual Safety Car.
Once racing resumed on Lap 13, Martins and Maloney tried to undercut the leading trio, with Bearman and Pourchaire following them in one lap later. Crucially, ART managed to execute a quicker pitstop than PREMA, allowing the Frenchman to emerge out on track ahead.
Extending his stint one lap longer, Fittipaldi rejoined ahead of Pourchaire momentarily, but was unable to defend as he, Bearman and Martins slid past him. On the alternative strategy, Doohan found himself promoted to the lead, hoping for a chance to box.
On Lap 16, that opportunity arose after contact between Jak Crawford and Juan Manuel Correa sent the Red Bull Junior into a spin. With another Safety Car appearance, Doohan reacted quickly, pitting for soft tyres and reappearing in second, right in Pourchaire’s mirrors.
Trying to fend off the Australian, Pourchaire went late on the restart, but the Invicta Virtuosi driver wasn’t in a rush just yet. On Lap 23, Doohan pounced, using DRS to sweep past the Sauber junior. Despite his valiant attempts at defending, Pourchaire had concede, dropping 1.4s in half a lap and allowing Doohan to breeze to his fifth Formula 2 victory.
Elbows were out behind with Martins and Bearman making contact on the restart but managing to cling on to third and fourth. Maloney and Fittipaldi’s drawn-out duel went down to the final lap, as Fittipaldi got the better of his teammate down the Kemmel Straight for fifth.
Crucially, that move meant the Brazilian returned to the podium after Martins was handed a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pitlane and Bearman was penalised for causing a collision.
Securing back-to-back P2 finishes and his ninth podium of the campaign was enough for the Championship lead to switch hands once again. It was advantage Pourchaire who embarked on the three-week summer break 12 points ahead of Vesti and 34 clear of Iwasa, with the French squad holding a 30-point advantage over PREMA in the Teams’ Standings.