Artem Markelov bided his time before attacking late in the race to claim his fourth FIA Formula 2 victory in this afternoon’s sprint race at the Circuito de Jerez, preserving his tyres on a day were most of his rivals were losing theirs before making the race-winning move on lap 22 and flying away for the win by over 11 seconds from DAMS pair Nicholas Latifi and Oliver Rowland.
Temperatures were hot once again as the grid formed behind newcomer and poleman Alex Palou, who soaked up a pre-race delay for a technical issue with the safety car before soaring into the lead ahead of fellow front row starter Luca Ghiotto, who had his mirrors filled by Jordan King: the pair came together and the Italian was in the gravel at turn 2, re-emerging at the back of the field as King led Latifi, Markelov, Rowland, Charles Leclerc and Antonio Fuoco as they chased after the leader.
The path to Palou was soon clearer when King’s engine let go, but the local driver was clearly enjoying his time in the car and building a substantial gap back to Latifi in P2, whose teammate dropped back behind the PREMA pair on lap 2, undoing his good work at the start. Behind them all Ghiotto was on a charge, clearly furious at his misfortune and looking to bring home any reward he could find as he sliced his way back up the grid.
Pitstops were flagged as a possibility ahead of the race, and on lap 12 Fuoco came in for fresh rubber, followed next time through by his teammate: the pair emerged in P15 and 16 and were soon on the hunt to return to the points as Ghiotto moved up to P8. Leclerc was setting the pace, running some 2-3s faster than the front runners, and his rivals along the pitlane were quickly doing the maths to see if they needed to make the call too.
On lap 18 Ghiotto followed their lead and pitted for tyres, just as Leclerc mugged his teammate at Dry Sac for P13, but with Latifi closing on Palou attention returned to the front of the race, with Markelov sitting behind the pair and waiting to see what happened. The trio circulated together for a few laps before Markelov made his move: on lap 22 he sliced by Latifi at turn 1, blew past Palou at Dry Sac, and was gone.
Latifi and Rowland mugged Palou next time by, the local clearly out of tyres, but were unable to do anything about the pace of Markelov out front. The Russian wound up as the laps fell away to grab his 4th win by almost 12s from Latifi, who held off teammate Rowland to the flag. Behind them Ghiotto just missed a podium after an astonishing recovery drive to P4, leading countryman Fuoco past a slowing Leclerc on the final lap, with Nyck De Vries outdragging the Monegasque driver, who had nothing left on his tyres after using them in qualifying, to the flag and P6, and Palou hanging on for the final points position in 8th.